“The trend has its origins in Hawaiian poke bowls made with raw fish, which is considered a national dish there,” is how Florian Hartmann describes it. The highly decorated professional chef (formerly three gourmet Fs, 8.5 pans in the gourmet guide Gusto, 16 points in the Gault Millau and a Michelin star) is a passionate trend scout and has traveled halfway around the world. His numerous work stations, which took him to London, Belgium, Gran Canaria and Hamburg, among other places, also provided plenty of insight into trends. Bowls have been on Florian Hartmann’s mind for a long time – and not just since he moved from his position as chef de cuisine at the legendary Schlosshotel Kronberg in Frankfurt am Main to RATIONAL in 2018, where he began as a Corporate Culinary Expert. He has now been appointed Vice President of iCombi Product Application. “When I was cooking up stars, there was a bowl with kimchi, edamame, enokia mushrooms, washed wagyu and freshly grated wasabi,” he recalls.
Bowls are culinary all-rounders
“Bowls are perfect for all kinds of trends,” Hartmann says, thinking about the big changes that trend researcher Hanni Rützler has recently highlighted in her Food Report 2023, which we reported on. “Veganize your food,” he says, is probably the most striking trend. This even applies to classic meat dishes. “There are now many products so good that you can no longer tell whether it’s meat or an imitation protein,” says the expert, impressed. “Although not everyone is eating vegan, people are paying more attention to organic food, animal welfare, sustainability and climate protection,” he says, explaining the appeal of vegan products. And if it does have to be meat, then only a small amount, and it should be organic and local,” he says, describing a second important trend. He particularly likes the “local exotics” trend. “Sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa are now also growing in Bavaria. In the Upper Franconian town of Kleintettau, there is a jungle in a greenhouse, where mangoes, papayas and bananas are growing instead of monoculture.” The professional is also impressed by its level of sustainability. “Waste energy from the greenhouse is used for heating. The concept therefore requires little energy and is largely CO2neutral.”
Bowls make you healthy and happy
There are plenty of popular ingredients for trendy bowls. The best part? The positive ingredients always give the bowls a very friendly image as a health and happiness maker. The popular Buddha Bowls, in particular, impressively deliver on this promise. It’s no wonder that Florian Hartmann also swears by reliable bowl bliss – despite, or perhaps precisely because, the trend is not new but rather long-established. “I wouldn’t open a bowl restaurant any more,” he admits, referring to established bowl chains such as Beets & Roots or Aloha Poke. Of course, great examples of successful bowl restaurants and chains can also be found in the U.S., including Ono Seafood in Hawaii, where poke bowls are prepared according to the customers’ wishes. However, it doesn’t stop on the islands: Manhattan, Washington State, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, California and Miami also provide very exciting examples interesting for restaurateurs who want to incorporate bowls into existing concepts.
“Personally, as a restaurateur, I would offer bowls twice a month,” Hartmann says, adding that the offers must be carefully tailored to the concept – and may not always be a good fit. “Serving a bowl of roast pork, meatloaf, dumplings, cabbage and potato salad in a classic Bavarian restaurant is absolutely impossible!”
Tips from the star chef
In general, however, the right bowls can be created for every concept, says the pro – provided you pay attention to a few basics. “Quality always prevails. Do not serve overcooked rice and quinoa, but rather make sure it still has bite. Green vegetables, not gray,” he continues. “There should be at least five to six components. However, please don’t mix and match too wildly. Instead, go for more familiar combinations!” That said, these combinations should always contain certain components: “Creamy and crunchy as well as sour, sweet and spicy.” You can also add a bit of bitterness, such as a couple of radicchio strips or leaves from Brussels sprouts. “Bowls must offer a taste experience,” says Hartmann. “This is achieved by setting taste peaks.”
Important to keep mind: arrange the components separately. After all, a bowl is not a stew! “On the bottom, the starchy filling side dish such as rice or quinoa and protein on the top, for example meat,” Hartmann explains. “To this, you can add a complimentary sauce, dips, herbs, roasted onions, nuts and seeds if you like … That way, you can decide for yourself what to fork up each time.”
Those who take these tips to heart will be rewarded with a product that is almost unbeatable in its versatility. “Bowls are popular because they are very flexible,” Hartmann stresses. “They can be served cold and hot or as a combination of both. Rice or edamame can be prepared the day before. That way you only need to add grilled salmon or a warm sauce and the guest will have the pleasant feeling of eating something warm. Bowls are really easy to make, even for the inexperienced, and just on the side. If you offer a lunch menu in addition to your regular menu, you’ll get 20 bankers in one go. With bowls, that’s not a problem!”