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'You have to be willing as a chef to adapt in this market,' says Benjamin Meyer, 33, a chef in Detroit.
JARRAD HENDERSON/DETROIT FREE PRESS
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By Sylvia Rector
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT--It's nerve-racking enough figuring out what to serve for a Saturday-night dinner party.
Imagine trying to write a menu for 200 nightly guests when their expectations are through the roof.
To chefs like Benjamin Meyer, though, it's second nature--and fun.
Meyer, chef de cuisine of Iridescence at MotorCity Casino Hotel, has just introduced his first new menu since taking over at the stunning, fine-dining destination this summer.
So it seemed like an opportune time to talk to him about how he creates new dishes and goes through the process of building a winning menu.
First, he cautioned, his methods aren't necessarily like anyone else's. But for him, inspiration for dishes can come from anywhere--an ingredient, a memory, a moment.
He recalls one night watching bearnaise sauce run slowly down the side of a filet and pool on the plate. The sauce was "rich, smooth, velvet, silky" sensuous, really.
He began thinking about sauces--about how the five French "mother sauces" can be modified into other sauces. "What if we did a dish based off a mother sauce?" he wondered.
On the new menu is an appetizer called "Mother Sauce"--hollandaise (the mother) with white asparagus, bearnaise with smoked salmon, and charon with Kobe beef. No one would guess how it began.
Sometimes, he looks for new ways to do old ideas. The old filet mignon, the top seller, now is "Filet of Beef: A Tribute to the Cheeseburger"--the grilled steak split horizontally for the "bun," toasted buttered brioche placed between them as meat and Sauce Mornay replacing cheese.
"People want something they know but they also want a wow factor," he says. Writing a menu isn't as simple as listing some great-tasting dishes. They have to have the right balance as a group, and each one has to survive tough questions.
"Can I sell it at a price point that makes business sense?" Meyer asks. "I might have a great idea and want to use all these great ingredients, but if I have to sell it at 'X' amount, and the market won't bear 'X,' then I can't do it."
And there must be demand. "There may be a product I'm excited about, but if no one will buy it there's no point putting it on the menu We are a business first and foremost."