Writing The Menu
Writing a menu is an art form. I’ve been writing them for over 25 years and poetic license is key. They are meant to invoke vivid imagery and have an edginess, if appropriate, and personality. You want people to be struck by what they’re reading and remember it. Finally, you want it to initiate a conversation with your server to ask questions. Locally grown food is important to us here at Tiki’s and we want to get that message across to our guests. We don’t expect our guests to know what Hau’ula tomatoes are and where they are grown but our servers do. We take them to the farms and they see first hand the products we put into our food and are able to relay these things to our guests. Sparking a conversation with a competent staff is the experience we aim for. In a place where the staff can’t adequately talk up the menu, it would need to be dumbed down.
Another common practice in menu descriptions is to steer guests to or away from certain dishes. In one of my previous kitchens our filet mignon prices were skyrocketing through the roof and fish is what we were known for. So we ended up making a filet mignon that tasted awesome but it didn’t read awesome. We’d incorporate escargot into this great desolation Cabernet demi-glace. If you take little pieces of pancetta and pan fry them and add it to red wine and demi-glace and fresh thyme, you’d want to eat that all day long! To get around that we’d put all that and it would be wonderful and on top of it all add escargot. Some people will just refuse to eat it because of that one ingredient even though it tasted fantastic and was actually very eclectic.
There’s basic do’s and don’ts that I follow. Don’t use lackluster words, don’t use words that can evoke unappetizing visuals (unless it’s cool). I think that curd sounds like turd for instance, so I wouldn’t allow my sous chef to use it, I suggested there was a better way to convey what you are describing. A lot goes into making unique signature dishes and there is a lot of thought on how to describe these dishes to our guests. Creativity is key to both.