Q: How do you stay on top of trends in Oriental Cuisine?
Mark Charlampowicz: We undertake extensive research based on current and expected future trends. We look much beyond the UK in our research, often analysing the US market and further afield. We also take a look closer to home in Birmingham, the Midlands, and the UK’s larger cities to see what new trends are delivering the most satisfaction and impact. We also draw on our own travel and personal experiences as a team to enhance our offering.
Q: Oriental Cuisine is a broad category covering many countries. Which ones are up and coming?
MC: Asian food trends are quite cyclical, as they evolve themselves over time. We are currently at the crest of the Korean food trend, which we expect to continue for the next three to six months. Japanese desserts are also seeing a positive uptrend, which is yet to hit the mainstream. And expect a resurgence of Vietnamese cuisine, as well the emergence of Sri Lankan and Indonesian food.
Q: How do you take a dish or concept, develop it and then launch it onto menus?
MC: We don’t really have a formulaic process; we have passion, and that is what drives our process. We don’t wait for a concept to become a popular trend before we launch a new dish. Instead, we will constantly try different ideas in our kitchens with our team, and then let our customers experience them – they drive our permanent concepts.
Q: Is sourcing authentic ingredients a challenge?
MC: Although Asian food is readily available, continuity of supply is the biggest challenge. We can have an ingredient for a few months, then no supply for a long time. With Asian and oriental food demands here to stay - UK supply of authentic ingredients is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Q: Oriental cooking needs special skills and training. How do you handle this?
MC: Our culinary teams and chefs are well travelled and cultured. Wherever they go they immerse themselves in the environment, which helps with their skill development. We have a great food network that supports us when creating and innovating new concepts or menus and our bespoke training programmes incorporate the development of specialist skills where required. For example, MSG is very popular as a flavour enhancer, but we don’t use it. Instead we work to super-charge the flavour using the best fresh ingredients.
Q: 2024 will be the Year of the Dragon. Do you use that to promote your menus and events?
MC: No, we let our food and menus do the talking. That said, we always offer our clients bespoke solutions and work closely with them to create themed menus and enhance our products and services.
Q: What Oriental dishes most often requested?
MC: We are seeing a lot of demand for steamed boa buns with assorted fillings. Also katsu curry, gyozas, and kimchi are also super popular. Slow cooked, Asian spice infused meats are also growing in popularity and we expect to see grow over the next 12 months.