Drive-Through Sous Vide and Tamarind McRibs?

Trade mags for the food industry are always forecasting the coming year’s hot new trends, and these articles are often either predictable or esoteric. But fast-food-focused QSR Magazine really breaks the mold with its latest roundup of trendy ingredients—the piece quotes food-processing insiders predicting that we’ll soon see exotic new spices, complex cooking methods, and even molecular gastronomy at chain eateries. Some of my favorite forecasts:

From Jon Miller, director of research & development, El Pollo Loco:

Deconstructed food has a lot of promise for the quick-service. This technique offers numerous benefits: potential for new product forms that tend to be the best transaction drivers; opportunity to attract non-traditional customers; ability to deliver new flavor and texture experiences; potential to empower and give freedom to consumers so they can construct and consume food the way they choose instead of providing a pre-packaged item; and the potential to develop new product forms with limited new SKUs.

From Matt Burton, director of culinary innovation for ConAgra Foods:

Ancho peppers have become popular. Not only is the flavor mild enough to be accepted by the general public but also it is easy to say—which is a big deal when compared to chilies like guajillo. As figs gain mainstream popularity, they show a lot of promise for quick-serve. They have nutrition appeal and are versatile for both dessert and breakfast applications. ... I see individual sous vide being used in quick-service before many of the other new ideas because it allows for pre-portioning and, with the right reheating equipment, it can be done without a lot of skilled labor to execute.

From Daniel Barash, senior director of operations and products, Moe’s Southwest Grill:

Braising and stewing have become extremely popular. There are two reasons behind this: The first is the growing popularity of comfort foods. The second is the use of non-primary cuts of meat. What used to be considered scraps or by-products are now being used as center-of-the-plate items. The challenge is making exotic cooking methods compatible with a quick-service model and doing that at a competitive price point that is reasonable for consumers and still allows you to make a profit.

I, for one, don’t plan to try the braised dishes at that guy’s restaurants anytime soon—particularly not while they’re figuring out how to apply those “exotic cooking methods” to “non-primary cuts of meat.” Eek.

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