Ever wish you could travel back in time and peek (just for a moment) into the past? One of the newest food fads today can help you do just that for your diners — well, sort of. Heritage cooking highlights foods that've been around for generations, allowing your customers to experience and gain a small glimpse of times long ago. With this post, we’ll look at the ins and outs of heritage cooking and explore some of the exciting ways operations can bring this comforting culinary art to their kitchens.
What is heritage cooking?
Remember when the food critic in Disney’s 'Ratatouille' found himself with a mouthful of Remy the rat’s ratatouille and was instantly transported to his childhood? The warmth, comfort and love of his mother’s very-own ratatouille immediately flooded him, filling him with the nostalgia of a simpler, happier time.
Certainly, many of us can relate. While a rat hopefully isn’t doing the cooking, the experience in which a distinct aroma or unmistakable flavor brings us back to a particular event or time in our life can be profoundly meaningful. The very recollection of these feelings are what continues to drive people toward nostalgic and comforting experiences like cooking up grandma’s Christmas morning German pancakes or nana’s feel-good black-eyed peas and ham hocks. That’s the essence of heritage cooking; food that provides immense significance while connecting us to the past and weaving memories, people, cultures and emotions into a present-day experience.
How to incorporate heritage cooking into your operation
Now that we’re clear on what heritage cooking is, let’s take a look at the top four ways you can integrate this type of cooking into your establishment’s menu.
1. Explore your own ancestry
No matter if your roots are Senegalese, Filipino, Swedish, or Cuban (to name a few), there’s something magical and inspiring about exploring the foods and methods of cooking that earlier generations embraced. Think about it; when tasting the same flavors, smelling the same scents and experiencing the same food textures that our great, great, great grandparents did, it’s like an ancestral reunion. Truth be told, there’s not much else that can bring the past to life quite like food does.
As a foodservice operator, accessing your ancestry through food and encouraging your staff to do the same can incite the creation of brilliant and inspiring dishes, no matter the type of cuisine your establishment serves. For example, if you own a sandwich joint, an old family recipe might contain a flavorful spice, pepper or cheese that influences a new toasty panini that becomes your next big hit. The key? Keep your tastebuds ready and your eyes open to new ideas from the past.
2. Look to other cultures outside your own
Exploring personal heritage can provide significant recipe inspiration for chefs, cooks and operators. Similarly, incorporating traditional meal components from other cultures is just as wise. For instance, let’s say you’re interested in Persian culture. Take a dive into learning about some authentic French dishes such as a traditional coq au vin, flaky croissants or iconic buckwheat flour crepes. In fact, the latter has a heritage dating back to the 13th century. With a trusty crepe maker in hand and a few batter-spreading tools, you could turn this age-old treat into a new show-stopping menu item for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or anything in between.
Looking for something with a little more spice? Take a culinary adventure to northern Africa and explore the traditional Tunisia dish, kafteji. Start by cutting a few potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and onions. Next, on a quality flat griddle, sauté the veggies until they're tender and follow up with a few fried eggs. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix. Finish by adding carvi (a spice), harissa (a hot African paste), a dash of salt and parsley. And there you have it; heritage cooking. Now, that’s not to say your pizzeria (or whatever your restaurant type) should introduce crepes or kafteji onto the menu. But, could onions, peppers, tomatoes and harissa be the next pizza craze to sweep the world? Take a shot with some tasty ingredients and find out.
For more classical cultural inspiration, look to your operation's surrounding area, your staff or locations employees have traveled. In no time, you'll have incredible heritage-inspired meals to populate your menu.< /p>
3. Make some recipe elements from scratch
The thing about cooking way back in the day is that there wasn’t always a can of condensed mushroom soup or a packet of zesty seasoning available to give your dish that little extra boost. Instead, recipes were often made from scratch and took some time to create. Now, based on your operation’s school of thought, that’s either really great news or not so much.
Whatever your philosophy, there’s value (and typically some amazing flavor) in doing things the old-fashioned way. For example, traditional Indian curry calls for garam marsala, but you won’t find a store-bought seasoning packet in kitchens where true heritage cooking occurs. No, instead, you’ll find that aromatic spices of whole coriander, black cumin seed, cumin seed, black pepper, star anise and black cardamom that are dry roasted in a wok or flat griddle and added to a ground, non-roasted mix of nutmeg, green cardamom and mace. Are we saying you have to make all your seasoning blends by hand if there’s a more convenient option out there? No, not necessarily.
Seasonings aren’t the only “from scratch” food items that elevate some traditional meals head and shoulders above the rest. Depending on the type of operation you’re running, try incorporating more from-scratch ingredients such as freshly made pasta, fire-roasted tomatoes or slow-cooked bone broth. There’s likely many more scratch-cooking methods to explore in the recesses of your nana’s recipe box, so get creative. The point is to bring more quality, flavor and home-cooked feel to your offerings by identifying the elements of a dish that are worth the effort of making them from scratch.
4. Give heritage recipes a modern spin
Some dishes are best when the recipe sticks to the handwritten cards passed down from generation to generation. But on the other hand, gaining inspiration from traditional recipes of the past, with a fresh take on the original, has created some of the most incredible culinary masterpieces around today. Technology, lightning-speed communication, and access to ingredients from around the world make melding recipes into a modern version a piece of cake (or, should we say a traditional Hispanic tres leches cake fused with a cardamom, cinnamon Indian twist?). Come on; it’s so good! Put your own modern spin on classic recipes. We promise your customers will thank you.
Another way to put a fresh spin on traditional foods is by slightly changing its structure. For instance, there’s a popular food trend that involves waffling foods that aren’t typically waffled. That’s right, you simply cook different dishes in a waffle iron, and the results are unique and fantastic. One example is a traditional Korean kimchi pancake, with all its caramelized kimchi goodness. Increase that flapjack’s surface area by creating a kimchi waffle with a high quality commercial waffle iron, and you have a mouthwatering masterpiece. But, kimchi isn’t the only thing your operation can waffle, try macaroni and cheese, waffled pizza, paninis, omelets and much more. Heritage cooking with a slight waffle tweak — it truly provides the best of both worlds.
Heritage cooking is timeless.
The newfound focus on heritage cooking isn’t new at all. In fact, it’s timeless. And those traditional, authentic foods cooked to perfection help us reach back and connect with our past or the different cultures we love. It’s no secret that the correct equipment gets the job done right. Thankfully, Hatco and Krampouz have joined forces to offer quality, commercial kitchen equipment that holds up under pressure with incredible integrity and accuracy — every time. Check out the different Hatco/Krampouz cooking solutions for the best in heritage cooking.