Recently, Chef Adolfo Garcia was interviewed by Emmanuel Laroche, Symrise’s Vice President, Marketing & Consumer Insights, Global Marketing Leader, to
uncover the insights that Garcia uniquely brings to understanding the diverse Latino cuisine and its impact on the food and beverage industry.
In today's post, we'll check out the third and final installment of Emmanuel's interview with Chef Adolfo.
As an owner and chef of awarding-winning restaurants in New Orleans, Chef Adolfo has brought a new level to traditional Creole specialties by imparting these with a creative Latino touch that relies on his Panamanian heritage. La Boca, a Mano and Gusto are favorite dining places for locals who have a myriad of excellent restaurants to choose from but who return to Adolfo’s haunts over and over again. Chef Garcia’s restaurants are also very well known as “must eat there” spots for travelers who are looking for an exceptional culinary experience.
What great Latino/Hispanic dishes/products are missing from the American marketplace?
There are many ingredients we use that are only available in the specialty/ethnic markets. In addition to the pepper and potato varieties I mentioned, you have to go to specialty stores to find epazote, culantro – not cilantro, culantro - which is a completely different plant, popular in the Caribbean and Asia. There are also ingredients like achiote, bacalao, plantains, aji amarillo, tamarind and roguajillo ajiama which we’ll be seeing more of. I think the flavors of the anon (custard apple), cherimoya and guanabana, known as soursop in the U.S., are families of flavors that have not been used here. The tastes these ingredients impart and are so mysteriously delicious - they immediately
win over palates.
From the diverse Latino cuisines, which do you think are becoming more popular in U.S. restaurants, and which Latino cuisines do you think will be the next “big” trend in the U.S.? Are there any reasons why one cuisine would be more popular than others?
I think by nature the U.S. palate is always looking for that next great cuisine to excite their palates. Our nation does not rely on a historical cuisine except perhaps for pot roast, mac ‘n cheese and burgers. The next new thing to catch on will be driven by immigrant newcomers as they begin to expose their ethnic foods to the mainstream. Peruvian food is due for a strong showing among the Latino segment because of its deep and long, well established roots. Peruvian cuisine has many facets, with influences from the Amazon, the Inca Legacy. It is further impacted by the Chinese and Japanese who migrated and settled in Peru.
I also think the Caribbean has to have its uptick with flavors and indigenous ingredients that have their roots in Spain and Africa. We also see how Ceviche is taking hold, become more and more popular. I think popularity is based on accessibility, when consumers have the opportunity to try something new for themselves. If the food is seen as too exotic, many people will not try it. But as a Latino and restaurateur, I don’t try to please the masses. I aim to be authentic and to provide the highest quality. Others may decide to tweak a concept and downsize the goal, to accommodate and make it for the masses so it will become popular, not really ensuring authenticity. Personally, I do not choose to be at that end of the transaction. Popularity isn’t always our main objective as cooks.
Can you think of any Latino dishes that would translate well into U.S. packaged food products?
Anything with dulce de leche, flan dishes with flavors such as coffee and chocolate, empanadas sweetly filled with guava and cheese - or savory, filled with meat or vegetables. Packaged foods need to be ready to eat for fast prep; heat and served for busy lifestyles and for the easily intimidated.
Follow Chef Adolfo on Twitter: @ChefAdolfo