Q&A: Sauces are a chef’s secret weapon for memorable, customizable dishes
September 26, 2019
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This post is sponsored by T. Marzetti Foodservice.

Sauces are a powerful tool in a restaurant kitchen. They provide a dose of concentrated flavor for drizzling or dipping, and having a range of versatile sauces in stock allows for endless culinary possibilities. In this interview, T. Marzetti Company’s Director of Strategic Product Development Sandy Bichsel discusses how restaurant operators can use sauces to create standout signature dishes and what flavor trends inspire the company’s Bold Blends line.

T. Marzetti Company’s Director of Strategic Product Development Sandy Bichsel
Bichsel

Customization -- either for special diets or to answer consumers' call for greater variety -- is a growing trend in foodservice. How can sauces play a key role in customizing dishes?

Sauces have the ability to be a major flavor driver within menus and can bring differentiation to an operation. For example, similar grain bowls can take on a totally different taste profile just by switching the sauce they are served with, whether it be Korean barbecue, garlic parmesan or a simple aioli. As “build-your-own” grows as a trend across foodservice, sauces are an easy, low-labor solution to enhancing both the flavor and value of simple dishes. Many of our sauces are formulated to be gluten-free, vegan and made with no high fructose corn syrup so they are more friendly to those with special dietary needs.

What are some inventive ways operators can make the most of the sauces they have in stock? 

We encourage operators to get creative with their sauces. For example, take a base sauce and add in favorite spices to create a signature taste. This not only creates flavors that restaurants are known for, but also helps increase the perceived value of their dishes for more profitability. Sauces can be one of the most versatile things on a menu and go way beyond wings, whether used as a pizza base, burger topping, mixed in with salad dressing, drizzled on tacos, and more. One of our favorite success stories is from Union 32 Craft House in Eagan, Minn., which uses our signature Sriracha Bourbon Bold Blends sauce in wraps, sandwiches and its popular chicken wings.

Another enduring trend in foodservice is dishes and flavors that communicate a sense of place -- whether it's through global influences such as Korean gochujang or regional US flavors. How have these regional flavor trends inspired the Bold Blends line?

Consumers are more global and sophisticated in their taste palate than ever before. With that in mind, we wanted to incorporate interesting international and regional flavors to help operators capitalize on this growing trend. We developed a range of sauce flavors that includes flavor-forward international sauces like Korean Barbecue and Tropical Habanero. The beauty for operators is taking one menu item, like chicken wings, and creating eight different flavor variations with our line of sauces.

Where else does T. Marzetti look for inspiration when creating innovative sauces for the Bold Blends line?

This is one of my favorite parts of my job -- I love exploring and researching new flavors. Inspiration comes from a variety of places, whether it be through travel, ideas from our customers, or seeing a new trend bubble up on menus. We also have a dedicated team of chefs who are always on the lookout for the latest flavors and menu trends.

When developing the Bold Blends line, what was most important to Marzetti when sourcing ingredients?

Quality comes first, and we know our products are only as good as the ingredients that go into them. That’s why we carefully source ingredients and choose the highest quality of spices. As we developed the Bold Blends line, we wanted to make sure that we included ingredients that our customers could call out on their menus. For example, the Tropical Habanero Sauce contains a blend of mango, pineapple, orange, lemon and lime juices. Our Smoky Honey Chile utilizes four different chile peppers: chipotle, ancho, guajillo and de arbol, and our Roasted Garlic Parmesan is made from a blend of three Italian cheeses: parmesan, romano and asiago.  And of course, we use real Maker’s Mark Bourbon in our Sriracha Bourbon Sauce. We also have a variety of options for special dietary needs, such as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.

Sandy Bichsel has been with T. Marzetti Company as a director of strategic product development for over 14 years and she has been instrumental in developing customized solutions for national account customers for nearly 26 years. With a master's degree in food science and nutrition, Bichsel brings strategic, flavor-forward thinking to T. Marzetti Company.

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