Is food pairing simply a passing trend?
Everything seems to have become salted and caramelised … salted this and caramelised that. Sometimes salted AND caramelised. From chocolates to everyone’s favourite…popcorn. But food pairing goes back, way back, back to many many moons ago.
We’re all aware of drink and food pairings such as white wine with fish and red wine with red meat, but this is simply done to compliment the meal experience and not to push gastronomic boundaries. Growing up, food pairing to me was having a hot pizza with pieces of pineapple sat nestled on top. In fact, wine & cheese, mashed potato & gravy and coffee & doughnuts were probably as exciting as food pairing got until more recently.
Food trophology, the nutritional approach that advocates specific combinations of foods as central to good health and weight loss, is becoming increasingly popular. Some sectors are obsessed with food pairings or food non-pairings, such as keeping carbs away from protein to aid athletic performance and recovery. But experimenting with food pairing, specifically combining flavour combinations, is increasingly being used to push culinary boundaries and create incredible, mouth-watering experiences.
Ask people in our industry if Heston Blumenthal is a chef, a scientist or just a genius and we all tend to come back with the same answer. He of course is a chef, but a chef who really tests our creative juices with his celebrated inventions. Meat with dark chocolate or caviar with white chocolate – these recent innovations open up a whole new world of possibility and opportunity.
As I sit in my production kitchen with my team of chefs discussing innovation, flair and creativity there are no goggles, liquid nitrogen or Bunsen burners in sight, more’s the pity. Can you imagine what Heston’s kitchens must look like? We have staple dishes such as fish & chips, pie & mash, crumble & custard and pie & beans, but our chefs need to now take dishes that should not be paired and merge them together to create outstanding results which will get more customers through the door.
We as a nation should venture away from our comfort zone and cultural norms when it comes to cooking. As a child my mum always made us have a “bits n pieces” tea where she would use up all the left overs that were in the fridge prior to her doing the big shop. Back then you might get a single link sausage, a measly helping of stovies and a crab stick, certainly a combination that should not work, if I’m honest did not work.
But Mum, if you read this, you were ahead of your time. A true innovator. We’re now simply taking your ideas and tweaking them a little to create slightly more sophisticated dishes.