Contemporary pasta presentation showcases the best of modern Australian cuisine

PASTA is more popular than ever both in Australia and internationally – as evidenced by the recent celebration of World Pasta Day on 25 October, which saw a full day of Facebook events, Instagram activity and tweets with the hashtag #pasta2050 trending on Twitter.

Pasta dishes, especially when made with fresh vegetables and lean cuts of meats, tend to be healthy balanced meals and offer the nutritional benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. And from a cost per serve perspective, pasta is usually the cheapest component of the meal, which means it’s possible to choose good quality pasta with very little additional outlay.

To find a good pasta, it’s wise to compare various brands, and try the pasta on its own without sauce, so you can get a sense of its flavour. Then you can complement it with the best possible ingredients – like the distinctive aromas and tastes of fresh herbs and quality vegetables and meats.

Pasta may have originated in Italy, but it has since evolved to become an international cuisine. In Australia, it’s become a key component of ‘modern Australian’, with creative chefs showcasing the best of local produce within pasta dishes. As pasta is basically a type of noodle, it’s just as suited to Asian flavours as well as traditional Italian ones. Restaurants such as Acme at Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay have made a name for themselves by pairing pasta with Asian influences, such as pig’s head macaroni with egg yolk and burnt chilli linguine.

Even venues with a strong Italian influence recognise the benefits of capitalising on Australia’s great quality produce – particularly seafood, which is a perfect complement to pasta. From spaghetti tossed with sea urchins served at Bondi, to marinara with prawns, mussels, squid and octopus in garlic, onion and chilli Napoli sauce, pasta works with the best our country has to offer. Sauteed garlic prawns tossed in cherry tomato, onion and basil served with pasta are a menu mainstay in the summer months,

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as are contemporary twists on traditional Carbonara which provide an opportunity to showcase the quality of Australian pork belly, or bacon and mushroom served with penne pasta in a creamy sauce.

So what is the secret of pasta’s success? For many chefs, the key is its simplicity and versatility. Pasta works best with seasonal ingredients, and it’s also a comfort food that inspires what World Pasta Day’s organisers call “conviviality” – that is, a chance for diners to get together and socialise over a good meal and wine. Australia’s climate makes it ideally suited to this kind of dining out, which has enshrined pasta’s place in our cuisine – a mixture of the traditional with the modern, evolving together. In Italy, pasta dishes rely on fresh produce and quality ingredients and with so much seasonal variety available in Australia, pasta is the perfect choice for the foodservice menu.


Insights
Refitting your business: How a fresh décor and layout can reinvigorate sales

GOOD FOOD and service is a given for any foodservice establishment, but with so much competition in today’s market, sometimes that’s not enough to enable you to stand out from the crowd. 

Ambience and atmosphere play a big part in attracting customers through the door and ensuring repeat business – and if your establishment is more than five years old, its décor and furnishings may be dated and in need of a makeover.

Regular refurbishment is becoming increasingly important for the longterm survival of foodservice businesses – so much so that major shopping centres such as Westfield now insist upon aesthetic makeovers as part of food court lease renewals. Projecting a contemporary image is essential – and there are many elements to consider.

Food presentation and menu are obviously key to any foodservice business, but you should also consider signage, lighting, table seating layout and streetfront presentation.  

One major mistake is to make your venue presentation style too generic – your business needs to have a point of difference from the competition, and you should know what it is. This ties into brand marketing – by knowing what your business brand stands for and who your customer base is, you can ensure that your pricepoints and menu are a good fit for the business. A makeover of your premises’ décor and layout also presents an opportunity to overlay branding and signage throughout the space – from menus and countertop cards to wall logos and streetfront signage. It also gives you the chance to ensure you’re maximising available seating space.

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When it comes to refurbishment, it’s a mistake to think in terms of a superficial ‘quick fix’. This may lead to an initial upsurge in sales, but if you haven’t made enough positive changes, your repeat business is likely to drop off. It’s better to take the time to look at all the areas which need improvement and tackle the task holistically – for example, a fresh paint job with the same tired menu is not a recipe for success!

How much you can do naturally depends on your budget – if you plan to engage a design consultancy to assist you with refurbishment, realistically you will be looking at a spend of at least $40K. Without investing the necessary funds it’s going to be difficult to create change with lasting positive impact on your business.

Another important consideration is that you don’t want your refurbishment to alienate your existing customer base – which can happen if it looks as though your business has been sold or taken over. You want to retain existing customers but at the same time reinvigorate your brand, and to achieve that takes careful planning.


Trends What’s trending this Spring?

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DIETARY-FOCUSED MEALS
It’s not just gluten free and plant-based meals that are trending right now - sugar-free, nut-free and low-carb are all dietary choices that are finding their way onto foodservice menus especially in our urban centres.

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NATURAL PRODUCE
The move towards offering simply prepared food with a minimum of processing and only natural, wholefood-based ingredient continues to grow – a ‘back to basics’ approach, often using wild/native ingredients such as Australian spices, bush meats such as Kangaroo and Wallaby and native fruits.

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SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING
The growing awareness of Millennial customers about environmental sustainability is driving demand for sustainable packaging, with many foodservice establishments relinquishing plastic containers in favour of natural compounds such as wood and bamboo. American brand Alcas is even marketing bowls, plates and spoons made from corn starch, and packaging which can be recycled on-site after the customer has finished their meal is now a reality.

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SELF-ORDERING FOOD KIOSKS
Their appeal lies not only in the freeing up of staff to focus on preparing food rather than taking orders but also in making serve times faster and eliminating the risk of errors in the order. Ideal for QSRs, they’re now making their way into independent foodservice outlets in the US and Europe.


Perfect Solutions
Creating the perfect pasta sauce

A FLAVOURSOME SAUCE that presents as attractively as it tastes is a key element in preparing the perfect pasta. For tomato-based sauces this is a relatively straightforward process; in the case of cream-based ones it’s a little more difficult.

Using a pre-reduced cream such as Anchor Extra Yield Culinary Cream, which you can work with a high temperatures over extended periods, can make the process easier. Conventional creams, whether pure or thickened, tend to break down both in high temperature environments, and when acidic ingredients such as white wine or citric reductions like lemon juice are added. This can lead to splitting, curdling or separation.

Anchor Extra Yield has been designed not to split or separate in such conditions and will emulsify and blend in well with your other ingredients. The fact that it’s pre-reduced means it takes less time to reach coating consistency, so you can prepare your sauce faster and without the need for constant attention during the saucemaking process – freeing up kitchen staff for other tasks.

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While traditional Italian cream-based pasta sauce tends to be quite heavy, the trend today on Australian menus is to utililse a more concentrated cream sauce flavoured with Italian style herbs such as basil or sage to lightly coat your pasta. Cream can also be used to make a foam or puree (for example with the addition of greens such as asparagus, peas or cauliflower) which can be used on pasta dishes – and impart a velvety smooth, light and airy mouthfeel that your customers will appreciate.


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