Brokedinner's Creative Exercises Part 2 : Multi-course menu writing

Kareem Roberts

Kareem Roberts

Other 26th August 2018

Brokedinner's Creative Exercises Part 2 : Multi-course menu writing

How often do you change your menu? 3 or 4 times per year? 6 maybe? While changing a menu once every 3 months it is ideal to accommodate the change in seasons.

I like to keep my mind fresh by creating a new menu monthly. By no means is this menu meant to be implemented but there is always the need to keep your mind sharp, especially as a creative. Make no mistake about it, if you are a chef then you are a creator.

I started designing dishes as a mental exercise as soon as I started cooking professionally. When I first learned how to make something as simple as risotto, I would go home and try to write down a few variations. When I learned to make soup I would do the same, and so on, and so on. Eventually, when I had to start writing menus I would apply the same practice but to be honest, while some of the dishes were solid - my earliest menus lacked balance.

A good multi-course menu needs both rhyme and reason. There needs to be intended variance in taste and explicit intent. It needs to flow. If your menu was a line on a graph then it should resemble an attractive curve as opposed to jagged peaks and dips. Most of all, it needs to make sense and at a certain level, it should reflect your ethos(I hate the use of that word when applied to anything cheffy but it is valid).

I like to begin my brainstorming by using a food almanac and seeing what is abundant in the respective month. In this case I used Eattheseasons.co.uk and I can see that the prime ingredients for September are Artichokes, Aubergine, Beetroot, Butternut Squash, Celeriac, Courgettes, Leeks, Sweetcorn, Turnips, Apples, Blackberries, Figs, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Raspberries, Chestnuts, Lamb, Rabbit, Venison, Crab, Mackerel, Mussels, and Plaice.

The key is that I would try to use as much of those ingredients as possible because not only should they be readily available but they should be at their most economical cost point. From there I create a rugged flow chart of intended sequence and intentional effects on the palette. The flow will look something like this

Light, bold > Inviting > Sharp, Textured > Warming, Airy > Clean, Refreshing, Earthy > Deep, Rich, Carby > Meaty, minimal, complex flavours > Clean > Sweet

That would be a rough outline for me to start building a 10-course menu, at which point all I need to do is create relative dishes using the ingredients and putting together a mise en place list so I know what I need to have for service. With this in mind, we are now ready to design.

Brokedinner’s 10 Course September Menu

~ Amuse ~

Butternut Squash Borsch
Mep : Beetroot and butternut squash borsch; Diced cured beetroot, Roasted butternut squash diced, Coriander Cress

~ Bread and Bites ~

Evap milk bread with thyme and roasted garlic butter

Mackerel and Okra

Mep : Kentucky fried okra, Smoked mackerel brandade cream

Sweet And Sour Pork

Mep : Caramelised granny smith apple, bacon pico de gallo
Notes : Caramelised apple acts as a bite-sized boat

~ Fish Course ~

Crab and sweetcorn

Mep : Crab and sweetcorn samosa, aerated tikka masala style corn chowder, coriander cress
Notes : I’m sourcing QUALITY samosa pastry for this. Making that by hand is WORK

~ Vegetable Course ~

Artichoke, Celeriac, Chestnut

Mep : Celeriac and chestnut pave, Artichokes a la Grecque

~ Poultry Course ~

Rice and ‘chicken’

Mep : Smoked turkey risotto (blanched risotto finished with turkey RICH ragout), Parmentier yam, aji panca and allspice oil
Notes : NOT sweet potato, YAM. The real YAM.

~ Meat course ~

Venison and root vegetables

Mep : Charred venison haunch, root veg mole, root veg game chips, goat jus
Notes: Venison brined in hot red wine, sugar, salt, and brokedinnery herbs and spices. The sugar will cause the ‘char. Mole is started with a base of burnt aubergine, butternut squash, roasted garlic, leeks, and swede (possibly even apples?). If a customer has it more than once it will not taste identical.

~ Pre Dessert ~

Corn and apple
Mep : Sweetcorn pannacotta, granny smith apple in lime syrup

~ Dessert ~

Blackberry and beetroot toaster pastry

Mep : Blackberry ‘’Pop-Tart”, beetroot and cream cheese “frosting”, macerated seasonal berries

End of Menu

I will not pretend that writing a well thought out menu takes 15 minutes. This can, and should, take time. Creative exercises are like physical exercises. You get the best results with the most time you put into it. If it comes too easily to you then there are always ways to increase the intensity by doing it more than once a month, adding courses, and changing the intentional impact of each course.

Eventually, as you think deeper about the dishes themselves while you are creating them you begin to see them in your mind. Eventually, you should begin to subconsciously assume the identity of the diner and tailor your own personal dining experience. Even if you never actually cook any of the dishes you design that is totally FINE.

Save your monthly menus somewhere to use as reference or inspiration for something completely different in the future. Looking back over time and assessing your growth is a positive reinforcer for personal development and it is very satisfying to know that some of your most impactful cooking is done in your mind.

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