It’s time to bring a little kitsch to your kitchen! Nostalgic eats like sloppy joes, deviled eggs and corn dogs are being reimagined to bring comfort food appeal to today’s menus. These ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s classics can be elevated with premium ingredients, on-trend condiments and other distinctive touches that nod to the past while embracing current consumer preferences. And the retro cuisine trend doesn’t just reflect meals that came from your grandmother’s house. On the flip side, upscale steakhouse-style dishes that were in danger of disappearing from menus forever have inspired chefs to adapt classic recipes in a more contemporary way. Consider the current popularity of raclette—shaping up to be the fondue of the 21st century. Whimsical, cheeky and craveworthy, retro-inspired dishes are truly of the moment!
You've never seen shrimp and grits like this before! Watch our SHRIMP AND GRITS SKEWERS WITH LOBSTER GRAVY
recipe demo and bring this reimagined classic to your menu with ease. View full recipe.
CUSTOM CULINARY® BRANDED PRODUCTS
In a nod to the vintage craze, recipes based off childhood favorites are a great way to bring the trend to your menu. Custom Culinary® products are perfect for adding savory flavor in easy-to-use formats.
MENU INSPIRATION FEATURING
CUSTOM CULINARY® PROPRIETARY PRODUCTS*
Deviled Crab Benedict
Lump blue crab mixed with creamy Custom Culinary® Pimento Cheese,* stuffed back into two crab shells and topped with buttery cornbread crumbs, then baked until golden brown. Topped with poached eggs and Custom Culinary® Gold Label Hollandaise Sauce; served with flaky biscuits.
Peking Duck Skillet
Savory confit duck served in a sizzling skillet with scallions, soy-marinated shiitakes and Chinese broccoli, topped with a fried egg, crispy duck skin and a rich, tangy Custom Culinary® Orange Demi-Glace.*
Cherry-Glazed Pork Chop
Double-cut pork chop, pan-roasted in brown butter, rosemary and sage, finished with a sweet and sour cherry gastrique made with Custom Culinary® Brandy Cherries Jubilee Sauce* and cider vinegar. Served with roasted chestnut and dried cherry wild rice pilaf and fire-roasted glazed carrots.
Steak & Fromage
Thinly sliced ribeye steak smothered in buttery Custom Culinary® Raclette Cheese Sauce* and broiled to a golden brown. Served on a crusty toasted French baguette with Custom Culinary® Gold Label Wild Mushroom Tapenade.
Chicken Pot Pie Fritters
Homestyle Custom Culinary® Chicken Pot Pie Filling* studded with juicy pulled chicken, carrots, peas and onion, breaded in cracker crust and fried to a golden brown. Finished with fresh sliced chives.
Mark Twain once said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. We take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope.” It really doesn’t matter the topic. I believe that to be true of everything, food and cuisine included.
“Retro” inspired food is truly becoming one of the hottest trends out there. Depending on when and where you grew up, vintage foods may look entirely different. To me, “Retro Food” and “Comfort Food” walk a very closely related parallel path. “Retro Reimagined” is about taking a food or flavor from someone’s past, one that invokes fond memories and warm feelings, and twisting it to make it relevant to a broad spectrum of today’s dining public. In other words, the challenge in making this trend successful is being creative enough to take your favorite “outdated” classic food and make it cool again. Everything from devilled eggs to chopped steak and meatloaf is being creatively reworked, driving traffic and profits in dining establishments across the country.
I recently had a huge laugh as I took a trip down memory lane. I changed offices after decades of working in the same space. During that move, not to date myself, I came across my copy of the old, big, blue CIA Professional Chef Text Book. Talk about retro... Green Goddess Dressing, Potato Croquettes, Vichyssoise, Duck a L’Orange and even Prime Rib with Popovers were all featured... LOL!
I’ve seen some really fun concepts out there of late that really harness the best of this trend and deliver highly appealing offerings. Mac & Cheese, as an example, continues to be reinvented by using fun inclusions and cheese blends that go far beyond cheddar. As an example, on a recent trip to Austin, TX, I enjoyed a piping hot pile of Pancetta Pimento Macaroni and Cheese. I love how they took advantage of the resurgence of pimento cheese, coupled it with bacon and created the next “new/old” classic. The idea of smashing together several trendy flavors into a retro comfort dish is a perfect strategy to make it relevant in today’s market.
My favorite retro dish overall is slow-roasted bone-in prime rib with herb au jus and freshly made popovers. When I was a younger man, there was a restaurant chain called Victoria’s Station. Man, talk about prime rib done right; it was truly perfect. Unfortunately, that chain faded out in the 90s. The good news is that I found a little restaurant in Addison, TX, called Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill, which serves the very same dish. It’s like taking a trip down memory lane. That said, prime rib is being reinvented at restaurants everywhere. Simply changing the seasoning rub or pumping it with bold flavorings will transform this classic into a beef lover’s nirvana. I recently worked on a project which I’m hoping takes flight soon. It is a Coffee Crusted Slow Smoked Prime Rib with Red Eye Jus. This is yet another excellent example of combining several retro ideas into a NEW, unique, and broadly appealing offering.
So regardless if it’s a tweaked-up hollandaise, a uniquely flavored au jus, or a fun flavored crème anglaise that will push your retro reinvention over the top, we're here to help make your task a little bit easier. I truly enjoyed looking at some of the old-school preparations we were taught so many years ago and then making them relevant again with a bit of inspiration. I invite you to do the same and, once again, prove the adage correct that “everything old is new again.”
See you in the kitchen soon!
Chef Michael Smith
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How To Jazz Up Retro Classics
What makes a food retro? Is it the nostalgia, the memories, the time that you had it first? That it has lived many lives, inspired multiple iterations, and continues to live on?
Just Like Mama Made It
Create powerful menus by connecting consumers with specific cultural nuances in your dishes.
Meet You At The Diner
In 2012, Little Goat Diner popped onto the Chicago dining scene, bringing a retro vibe, blue plate specials, and a menu full of reimagined classics.
*Products are customized; please contact your Custom Culinary® representative for more information.
Carly Fisher, “Cheese to Please,” Flavor & The Menu, October 25, 2018.
Dan Myers, “Cheese Balls and Other Retro Foods That are Primed for a Comeback,” The Daily Meal, January 4, 2017.
Dan Myers, “No More Crab Louie? 11 Menu Classics That Have Almost Disappeared,” The Daily Meal, May 4, 2017.
Heather Lalley, “Newcomers to the Retro Luncheonette,” Restaurant Business, August 15, 2017.
Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen, “Classic Comfort Food Makeovers,” Wine Enthusiast, accessed January 2019.