It’s fall! And the new season officially begins today, September 23, in the United States. This means temperatures are about to start transitioning from blazing summer heat toward freezing winter chills, and just like the changing view outdoors is becoming more robust with varying colorful hues, menus across the country will begin modeling their new fashions, via fall menu selections.
Random fact: I have exactly 109 reasons why fall is my favorite season of the year, BUT one of the top three is: food! Not only the warm, cozy comfort foods that mercilessly tantalize our senses, but the rich, wholesome desserts that boast seasonal flavors, colors, aromas, and creativity are nearly impossible to ignore. Thanks to the insatiable food porn flooding social media platforms, and warm memories of the fall cuisine of yesteryear, we desperately long for a bite (or several) of the indulgent deliciousness that makes three whole seasons too long of a wait to savor again!
But, of course, this is being written from the perspective of a consumer – a foodie who is enthusiastic about visiting establishments like yours to exercise the kind of food fanfare I’m writing about. And to keep people like me excited about making their first fall visits (and many repeats thereafter) to your establishment, seasonal menu planning is essential.
To get a better idea of the importance of seasonal menu planning for the fall season, I reached out to PreGel International Training Centers sponsor, The Chef’s Garden, a company that delivers the highest quality, most nutritionally dense and flavorful fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs, edible flowers, and more, direct from Earth-to-Table® to the world’s most discriminating chefs.
In our conversation, Chef Jamie Simpson shed light on why seasonal menu planning is imperative for business; how chefs are putting themselves at a disadvantage if they don’t plan menus seasonally; trends in edible florals and herbs, as well as some suggested flavor pairings to create a phenomenal fall menu.
Janae Morris (JM):Why is seasonal menu planning important?
Chef Jamie Simpson (JS): Seasonal menu planning is important because if you really want to serve the best at its best, you must work with the seasons. That doesn’t necessarily mean things have to be fresh, just picked and served. Sometimes through preservation or through fermentation, a good ingredient turns great.
For us at the Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef’s Garden, seasonal menu planning is everything. Living and working within the seasons is not a catch phrase for our marketing department’s take on sustainability. It’s truly our way of life. Our mission is to connect people with where our food comes from and teach chefs in restaurants globally what they can do with it. It wasn’t until I tapped the trees that I realized maple syrup is not a fall product, maple syrup is made in the spring. It wasn’t until I became a beekeeper that I also realized spring honey really isn’t a thing. For beekeepers, honey happens in the fall.
Farmer Lee Jones [founder of The Chef’s Garden] says our bodies have a natural rhythm: young greens in the spring, sweet fruits in the summer, hearty vegetables in the fall, starchy complex sugars in the winter. This is a theory in evolutionary development and I think there’s some truth to that.
JM: Are dessert chefs putting themselves at a disadvantage if they don’t plan?
JS: Dessert chefs are putting themselves at a disadvantage if they don’t plan menus seasonally but more importantly, the guests in the dining room are at a disadvantage. We have the ability to leave guests in better shape than when they arrive. We have a responsibility to serve quality ingredients with integrity.
It’s been proven time and time again that chefs can “get by” in their career by not purchasing or planning seasonally.
We often write menus (about 160 a year.) We write them as vague as possible. A course might be titled “A Walk Through The Garden.” This allows for us to embrace the season and what the farmers are in abundance of, which is often most affordable, and often the most delicious products on the plate.
JM: With fall here, what are some of your most highly recommended traditional herb and floral pairings?
The infographic below demonstrates the flavor suggestions made by Chef Simpson:
JM: Are there any new trends in herbs or edible florals that you are looking forward to this season?
JS: At the Culinary Vegetable Institute, for almost five years, we have fallen in love with citrus lace, over and over and over again. It’s an herb with an aroma of unripe orange peel, orange soda, and marigold. Truly a spectacular “swavery,” [sweet and savory] ambidextrous ingredient, both masculine and feminine.
This season, we are growing Licorice Lace. It’s not available yet, but very soon it will be. It’s the truest, most honest black licorice flavor I’ve ever encountered and not a bit offensive. I’m particularly excited to walk the line with it between sweet and savory applications. I’m thinking cauliflower, scallop, white chocolate, licorice lace.
In terms of trends, I’m seeing an explosion of sour ingredients in the pastry world. Sour flowers, sour herbs, sour vegetables, sour fruits, sour everything. It’s a good move and often comes at a point in the dinner when a slap in the face is welcome.
JM: For novices looking to use herbs, edible florals, or both this season, what are some tips you would offer them for making the best selections?
JS: There is no such thing as “just for color.” Every decision you make has a consequence. The sum of good decisions equals great. Considering herbs and flowers and vegetables and fruits is no less important than the consideration that goes into the rest of a dish. These are ingredients that make a difference. The farm grows over 60 varieties of flowers and hundreds of types of herbs.
We’ve been honored with the opportunity to work with chefs since the beginning. In the last decade, the pastry world has come so far. Now, mixologists are exploring beyond pre-prohibition and prohibition era cocktails and bringing this industry forward as a collective movement for all of us.
JM: Is there any other herb/floral information you think would be useful to share for seasonal menu planning?
About Chef Jamie Simpson:
Chef Jamie Simpson is the Executive Chef Liaison at The Culinary Vegetable Institute. He began his culinary career in a serendipitous fashion after leaving the music industry and his job at a recording studio. Chef Jamie is passionate about exploring different cultures, the connection between art and food, and the relationship between unconscious process and creativity.