Continental cuisine is known as the delicacies brought to the U.S. from European countries that represent tradition, technique, and authenticity. The deep-seated customs and valuable fundamentals of continental dishes provided chefs with the skills and passion to become proficient in multi-cultural cuisine. Through the decades, timeless classics, such as beef Wellington, steak Diane, sole meunière, and lobster Thermidor, fed booming cities that admired their impressive sophistication. In the 1970s and 1980s, these dishes thrived at white tablecloth, fine dining restaurants. However, as consumers began to prioritize quick and convenient dining experiences in the late 1980s, elaborate continental approaches shifted out of the spotlight.
In today’s foodservice landscape, convenience-seeking consumers continue to make up a large segment of the population; however, they also come to the table with educated palates that are hungry for history, adventure, and innovation. Continental cuisine is making a comeback and seeing a revival in popularity as chefs reinterpret classics with contemporary spins that appeal to the masses. Use the following strategies to get back to the basics, evoke nostalgia, and refine your brand narrative with the rich stories and flavors of continental cuisine.
Serve Modern Values
Countless continental dishes were created with underlying intentions and values that aligned with pre-colonial times. A strategic way to bring continental cuisine to modern menus is to emphasize the ideals that speak to today’s consumers. Incorporate current concepts like all-natural ingredients, clean labels, and plant-based into old-time dishes to highlight high-priority consumer values, including health, environmental responsibility, and animal welfare. For example, transform meat-centric dishes deeply rooted in continental cuisine, such as beef Wellington, steak tartare, and beef bourguignon, into satisfying, plant-based flavor bombs by replacing the meat components with beets. Committing to the creation of meatless and natural menu items positions your restaurant as a bold, knowledgeable, conscientious leader with the skills to showcase the cuisine of a bygone era with present-day creativity while meeting the demands of your customers.
To make continental dishes even more approachable, incorporate trending elements such as house-made condiments, flavor fusions, and shareability. “Gluten-free” mentions have grown on menus by 1,981% over the past decade (Datassential). Replace traditional pasta or bread with gluten-free varieties in items like alfredo, tartines, or croquet monsieur for classics that attract a broader range of customers. Throwback fare can also translate to multiple cultural profiles, providing endless opportunities for merchandising ethnic twists to adventurous eaters. Consider worldly offerings such as Mexican-inspired chicken cordon bleu, lobster Thermidor tostadas, or harissa-spiced lamb chops.
Top Quality Creates Top Sellers
Continental creations signify a celebration of authentic origins and distinctive characteristics. Along with implementing meticulous techniques and infusing passion into revived continental items, utilize top-quality ingredients that uphold the high standards of these inaugural meals. Capture the essence of this timeless era by investing in grass-fed, free-range chickens for a traditional French whole roasted preparation. Or, ensure your operation is equipped with high-quality beef and olive oil to serve beef carpaccio that emphasizes its components in their purest form. Contact your Maines Territory Manager to learn about the top-quality ingredients that will help your operation execute flawless reinterpretations of classics.
Old School Offerings Demand New School Presentations
Though they’re rooted in historical traditions, you can generate excitement by serving continental cuisine in creative ways. Add unique character to your offerings with playful presentations that stay true to the characteristics of the dishes while bringing new perspectives. Don’t just serve oysters on a bed of ice, present them with eye-catching sauce options featuring unexpected colors and textures, and serve the sauces in various vessels to promote customizable experiences. Refresh your presentations and utilize bold, contemporary servingware such as stunning skillets or artisanal serving boards that take recognizable offerings to the next level. Maines Equipment & Supply has a variety of servingware options available that can boost your presentations (see page 23 in Essence of Maines, Volume 10, Issue 1).
Continental cuisine has experienced a tremendous culinary journey – it set the stage for the fundamentals and continues to significantly influence today’s culinary scene. From meticulous French methods to the simplicity and love poured into every Italian dish, embrace the comeback of retro compositions, and implement unexpected twists that allow your customers to experience your brand’s representation of nostalgic and contemporary continental cuisine.