Transformation Of Cheese As A Trendy Restaurant Dish

Jim Prevor
Jim Prevor

When we think of specialty cheese, we think of its accompaniments—wine, beer, fruit, jam and perhaps a platter of charcuterie—but the cheese itself is generally always served fresh and in its original form, served pure and simple.

In upscale restaurants, cheese as a dessert course has become common, and cheese plates for catering are expected. The use of cheese in restaurants is now being transformed. Murray’s Cheese just opened Murray’s Mac & Cheese next door to the cheese shop, and its executive chef worked at upscale icons, including Per Se and the NoMad Hotel.

Nation’s Restaurant News, a restaurant industry trade publication, recently held a webinar for restaurateurs entitled: “Cheese, Please! — the Growing Menu Role of Specialty Cheeses.”

They explained the motivation and the content as follows:

Chains and independents alike are increasingly turning to varietal cheeses with distinctive characteristics to freshen up long-loved comfort foods or give new dishes future-favorite combinations of taste and texture. From the use of smoked Gouda on a brisket sandwich, to the blue cheese in a chicken pecan salad, the use of cheeses that stand out and have a story are on the rise to improve the chances for success of limited-time offers and next-generation menu mainstays.

Its webinar detailed what foodservice research house and consultancy Datassential has discovered about:

  • Overall cheese trends in foodservice – What’s new, what’s familiar
  • Leading cheese prep or flavoring techniques, such as smoking, grilling and infusing
  • Which cheeses are being used in which menu categories
  • Examples of specialty cheeses in traditionally cheese-heavy menu favorites, such as grilled-cheese sandwiches, mac ’n cheese and stuffed baked potatoes
  • Cheeses in places you wouldn’t expect

This is more significant than one might realize. This columnist and his family were involved in early efforts to popularize kiwifruit in America. It began with upscale restaurants using the almost unknown fruit in tarts and other recipes. This attracted attention among food and restaurant writers and, before you knew it, consumers were requesting the fruit all across the country.

As restaurants integrate cheese into new dining opportunities, we can expect history to repeat itself. More delicious ways to use cheese will mean more people demanding their stores sell better cheeses in broader assortments. That is a win for us all.

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