Chef Robert Harbison, executive chef of Princeton University, provided a rundown during the New York show of Gen Y-ers’s dining preferences, as indicated by what his 7,000 customer-students want or don’t want to eat. Here are what he identified as the new favorites of that younger generation, along with a few comments:
--“The biggest trend right now? Authentic Indian cuisine is huge. It is taken off to the point where we’re having a hard time in keeping up.”
--“Flatbreads are the new pizzas. What’s good about it? It’s a very inexpensive product, much less expensive than a dough ball. My margins are great. You can’t put a lot of stuff on there because it has to cook fast. You put a little bit of stuff, with intense flavors.”
--Authentic street foods are big, he said, citing crepes in particular. The students went crazy when he tried them, Harbison recounted. “There again, the margins are great.”
--Noodle bars, despite the execution challenges.
--Sliders. “I do a lot of slider desserts. I’ll do a strawberry shortcake slider. A gelato ice-cream sandwich. I can get a pretty good dollar for these, and they cost us nothing.”
“We don’t use ‘tiny’ or ‘small,’ we use ‘flights,’ or ‘tapas.’ Or ‘sliders.’ We want to say this is something different,” not something that’s been trimmed or skimped down.
--“Functional food is hot right now, and will continue to be hot. But we’ll be looking at the origins of these foods. They’ll prefer to take foods with natural characteristics instead of artificial ones.”
--Aromatic herbs, not reductions, sauces and other flavor maskers.
--“They’re buying coffee at a younger age. It’s amazing to see someone who’s 12-years-old buying a mocciatta.”
“Why is this happening? They’re not drinking as much alcohol. Cigarettes aren’t as cool as they were for us, and they need their stimulants.”
-- “Wrapped over all of this, and I can’t stress this enough, is sustainability. We’re using local cheeses, local breads, using organic deli meats.”
He also provided a few heads-up about what the so-called Millenials don’t like:
--“Genetically modified organisms—that is a huge topic. It’s going to be a mess. That is a big can of worms. These kids today are pretty freaked out by it.”
--Reductions. “Kids don’t know what a reduction is.” If you have a good flavor in the basic ingredients, like the chicken you’re using, a sauce isn’t needed, he explained. The students are accustomed to those clean yet pronounced tastes.