Prepared Foods talks sauces with Chef Andrew Hunter, who began his training at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and has worked in various industry segments including fine and casual dining, and corporate R&D. Based in Los Angeles, Chef Andrew develops retail and consumer food products for companies including Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Niman Ranch, Martha Stewart and Kikkoman. He also develops menus and operating systems for numerous fast casual and casual dining restaurant groups.

Prepared Foods: CIA recently held its annual “Worlds of Flavor” event. What sauce trends stood out?

Chef Andrew Hunter: I’m excited by what’s happening in Asian sauces. White soy entering the market is interesting to chefs because it gives us the ability to use soy—in any amount—without impacting color. Meanwhile, poke sauce is incredibly versatile and on everybody’s radar. We’re seeing several applications with diverse flavor profiles—some using sesame, others sweeter and assertive in soy (for saltiness), or adding sriracha for heat. In the end, poke sauce can be as simple or complex as you want. 

PF: What other sauce trends are top of mind for you?

Hunter: There’s quite a bit of cooking with beer and spirits—and derivative sauce opportunities from that. At CIA’s Worlds of Flavor event, we prepared a Yakitori sauce for a Pork Cheek Yakitori skewer, which we grilled over Japanese charcoal. The sake we used in the sauce added a fermented note and a little alcohol “heat.”

Overall, I’m unsure whether this idea of cooking with alcohol is a trend or a fad. It’s difficult to capture the flavor essence of a spirit in a sauce or a marinade without adding so much that the sauce becomes a cocktail itself.

Internationally-inspired barbeque sauces also continue to trend. They have different flavor dimensions than just the traditional smoky, tomato-based offerings. I’m seeing Korean sauces that fit in the current barbeque wave across multiple dining segments. These Korean sauces are very compatible with grilled meats, allowing the meat to really shine. They enhance, but do not overpower the meat.

At Worlds of Flavor, I also tasted sauces that were very spicy, primarily from red chili. I thought some of these might be too spicy and imbalanced, but it was clear that the chefs achieved the balance they desired. It’s exciting to see chefs take a stand and create very spicy sauces with heat from new sources.

PF: Tell us about a new sauce you’ve developed?

Hunter: It’s a Chinese barbecue sauce that’s compatible with beef, chicken, pork and shrimp. I describe it as a dark, rich sauce with a base of sweet soy. Yet, it also has some heat and spiciness with garlic and ginger. It’s really quite simple with a base of those flavors. Then, I added an elusive ingredient to give it what I call the “Dr. Pepper Effect,” which is when you taste something and you feel you should recognize it—but you can’t quite put your finger on it. 

PF: What’s ahead in sauce flavors?

Hunter: I’m most excited about Americans exploring the Korean cuisine. What’s appealing about this cuisine is that it offers flavors both familiar and unexpected to the American palate. It’s the combination of sweet, spicy and fruity ingredients that make the flavor profile interesting—and it’s anchored by the grill, which is a cooking method Americans are confident utilizing.   

Originally appeared in the June, 2017 issue of Prepared Foods as FIRST PERSON.