Will It Blend

the cheeseburger burrito from California Tortilla

Cheeseburger burrito from California Tortilla

It’s Foodie Friday and this week I have trendiness on my mind.  I came across a report recently from the National Restaurant Association. The What’s Hot in 2015 survey was conducted in October 2014.  They surveyed 1,276 members of the American Culinary Federation. The chefs were given a list of 231 items and were asked to rate each item as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite” on restaurant menus in 2015.  You can read the results here – consider it “coming attractions” for what you might find on a menu when you dine out this year.

I’m not sorry to say the biggest declining trend (#1 in “yesterday’s news”) is the use of insects in dishes.  It appears that foams have run their course as well. Locally sourced ingredients – meat, seafood and vegetables – is the top trend.  How they’re used is a different matter and the winner there as a general trend is ethnic fusion.  These dishes are mash-ups from different cultures resulting in things such as a cheeseburger burrito or a poutine taco.  Since we live in a country of many cultures, this isn’t surprising.  But it is instructive well beyond food.

Great ideas are all around us.  Maybe they’re buried in the ways a competitor does business.  Maybe it’s something in an unrelated field (kind of like how we look at what food tells us about business each Friday).  We need to be looking constantly for sources of inspiration.  Mark Turner, in his book The Origin of Ideas: Blending, Creativity, and the Human Spark, says that “humans are innovative and good at creative thinking due to the ability of our brains to blend two or more ideas and create a new idea.”  While we can argue about how great an idea topping Kung Pao Chicken with crumbled goat cheese might be, the important thing is that as business people we need to avoid the Not Invented Here thinking and look everywhere for inspiration.

I read a quote that “anyone can combine hoisin sauce with chutney and put it over pasta, but the end result has to taste good.”  That’s a great point.  Not every piece of fusion business thinking is great just as not every blending of ethnic foods quite works (Curried goat ceviche?  Nah…).  Thinking out of the box and trying to combine good ideas into great ones is the point.  If they blend, it just might be magic.


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