The team at Hamilton’s recently opened Eatwell and Little Big Bowl are building a business serving snappy, exciting, affordable food in easy-to-transport bowls. “We’re focused on local and seasonal ingredients and making bowls that are healthy and satisfying,” says head chef Josh Wortley.
With a menu that changes with the seasons, there is always a new flavour to try. “Every three to four weeks we are changing a component in the bowl with what is freshest,” Wortley says.
Turns out that Eatwell and Little Big Bowl are part of a growing foodservice trend. Bowls of all sorts, from build-your-own and breakfast bowls to globally-inspired bowls are adding new excitement for diners and presenting expanding opportunities for operators.
At Eatwell and Little Big Bowl, a focus on sustainability extends to eatware and takeout ware, and all cutlery and bowls are biodegradable. When ordering, guests choose a base, then veggies, meat (if desired), sauce and toppings like edamame, seeds and toasted coconut. Team members work the ordering line and tell customers about ingredient sources so that they can make more informed choices.
“Obviously food cost is always a big factor when deciding a menu, but our main focus was to use as many local suppliers as possible, and we wanted to provide value,” Wortley says. “Our goal with our base bowl, which is $9.99, was to provide a litre’s worth of healthy and satisfying food.”
Bowl mentions were up 18.4% in the year-over-year period ending Q3 2016, according Technomic’s On the Menu Trends Webinar, with Asian bowl mentions up 10.9%.
CHANGING OF THE BOWLS
Soups aren’t the only great place to repurpose ingredients. “Offering different daily bowls is a smart way to move a lot of produce and protein,” Chef Phil says.
He suggests including sharable mini bowls in the appetizer section of the menu. “You can take what would have been a seafood chowder and turn it into a share board for three. It’s still the experience of comfort food but in a shareable format using what you already have in-house.”
TAKE STOCK OF YOUR OPTIONS
“Good stock is just clean, basic flavour,” says Richard Calladonato, executive chef, Campbell Soup Company. “You’re not going to get notes of bitterness; you’re going to have a nice clarity to start your bowl. It makes every bowl much easier to make and saves a lot of time.”
GIVE THESE BOWLS A POKE
With its mixture of raw cubes of seafood in a soy sauce-based marinade, poke (pronounced “POH-keh”) is a flavour-filled version of sushi. It’s visually beautiful, healthy, easy to adapt, and very popular with millennials looking for new and interesting ways to experience seafood.
“You’ve got sweet rice in the bottom that some operators are seasoning with togarashi and different flavours for customization,” says Philman George, corporate chef for High Liner Foods. “Add crunchy tempura bits and seaweed for a fantastic blend of textures, colours and flavours that is really enticing.”
Don’t want to use raw fish in your poke? Try fully-cooked shrimp!
Chef’s tip: Strategically position your ingredients in different quadrants of the bowl to showcase the colour contrast of your protein, starch and vegetables.
Today’s diners are eager for grain bowls, vegetable and gluten-free, Chef Richard says. “Take a vegetable stock and instead of noodles, think about toasted quinoa, some vegetables to keep things healthy and on trend. I think that’s the next level of bowls that we’re going to see.”
Chef Richard suggests:
- Start with reduced sodium stock and shape flavours in a much more innovative way using great ingredients. Your guests will appreciate it.
- Ignite your creativity. Build signature bowls with Mediterranean flair, craft vegetarian soups with unique flavours like chipotle.
- Get on trend with Pho from Vietnam and curries from Singapore, Malaysia, India and Thailand.
- Be inspired with global influences like Modern Middle Eastern and North African and flavours like cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric in soups and stews.
Global breakfast bowls filled with unique flavours and ingredients are one of the five top rising flavour trends McCormick identified in its Flavour Forecast 2017 (www.flavour.ca).
Canadians are open to fusing different types of cuisines together to create a global mash-up of flavours and textures, and putting new twists on traditional breakfasts.
Hot cereal in North America is traditionally sweet, however many global hot cereal bowls are savoury. “These savoury grain bowls are the ideal carrier for meats, vegetables, purées and nuts, making them a protein-packed, delicious treat in the morning,” says McCormick Canada executive corporate chef Juriaan Snellen.
Chef’s tip: When combined with ancient grains such as quinoa, breakfast bowls have the potential to be low-carb, gluten-free and nutrient rich options for the first meal of the day.
SKHUG FOR A KICK
Think outside the box, Chef Juriaan urges, and start your diners’ day with a traditional Middle Eastern hash. Tender chickpeas, ground lamb or beef and butternut squash seasoned with a blend of coriander, cumin and fennel are the star of the bowl. Add skhug, a popular Middle Eastern hot sauce, for a tangy-savoury spiciness, and top it off with a dollop of creamy skhug ricotta and diced cucumber.
Some (other) worldly breakfast bowls
Burbura: Sweet porridge with wheat, nuts, spices.