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Hybrid food: how croissant donuts and sushi burritos are changing gastronomy

By: Reading Time: 4 Minutes

The idea behind it is as simple as it is ingenious: Two culinary products are merged to become a completely new food creation. Hybrid food is a trend that pushes boundaries and creates unique culinary experiences. Who came up with the idea? And what opportunities does this open up for the gastronomy industry?

Pâtissier Dominique Ansel needed around three months and more than ten recipes to perfect the Cronut – a cross between a French croissant and an American donut. However, it only took a few hours for the new food creation to go viral. That was because a food blogger discovered the donut-shaped croissant on the same day in May 2013 when the Cronut first appeared under the counter. Three days later, more than a hundred locals and tourists were already lining up outside the small bakery in New York’s Soho district. Anyone who came too late – Ansel limited the offer to 350 per day – paid up to 80 dollars on the black market for the new it-pastry. That same year, TIME Magazine declared the Cronut one of the best inventions of 2013. With the invention of the cronut, a new food trend emerged: hybrid food.


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Two become one – Definition and Origin of Hybrid Food

So why is it that people are willing to stand in line for hours for a rich and sweet dessert? What successful concepts have emerged from this? Last but not least, do we even need these food hybrids?

Culinary fusions existed long before the Cronut. This led to the development of fusion cuisine in the 1980s, a trend that was particularly popular in high-end gastronomy. Classic dishes were usually combined with unusual or exotic ingredients. Hybrid food, on the other hand, which can be seen as an evolution of this trend, knows no limits. Everything can be crossed with anything: culinary cultures, flavors, genres. Since exotic products are increasingly available at the supermarket around the corner, virtually anything is possible. The result is a taste experience that is delicious, strange and sometimes takes some getting used to, but which has never existed in the same form before. If the right food blogger is in the right place at the right time, as in the case of Cronuts, the message that something new is on the market will be announced to the world in a matter of seconds – thanks to social media.

Cragel, Cruffin and Bruffin – examples for hybrid food

It also didn’t take long for other chefs and bakers to jump on the hybrid food bandwagon and present their creative combinations. Cragel (outside bagel, inside croissant), Cruffin (half croissant, half muffin) or Bruffin, a mix of French brioche and American muffin, were particularly popular. However, the food experiments were not limited to breakfast. Italian Bruffins also became popular for lunch and dinner thanks to their fillings such as salami, parmesan and pesto.

I’ll have one to go, please!

In San Francisco, around 2,500 miles from the birthplace of the Cronut, former investment banker Peter Yen was longing for more variety at lunchtime. He’d had enough of sandwiches, soups and salads. His favorite food, sushi, was either overpriced or of poor quality. That’s why he developed the sushi burrito, also known as the sushirrito, in collaboration with chef Ty Mahler. This is Japanese sushi in the form of a Mexican burrito. In other words, it tastes like sushi, but is much easier to prepare and transport. The idea paid off. The practical lunch snack transformed into an entire chain of restaurants called sushirrito, with 14 locations in and around San Francisco.

Hybrid food revolutionizes the street food scene

The hybrid food trend was also driven forward by Roy Choi, a former chef de cuisine at the renowned Beverly Hilton who was born in South Korea. He is regarded as a pioneer of both the modern gourmet food truck movement and social media marketing. As soon as he rolled his truck in front of one of the hottest clubs in Los Angeles, hundreds of fans were already waiting for him. Choi had announced the location and offer ahead of time on Twitter. With his multicultural hybrids such as Korean tacos, he has succeeded in taking street food to the next level. We also have Choi to thank for the kimchi quesadilla, a Mexican quesadilla filled with melted cheese and Korean kimchi.


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New opportunities for the gastronomy industry Healthy hybrid food

In 2017, the native Korean founded the start-up LocoL together with his colleague chef Daniel Patterson, with the aim of providing residents in poorer neighborhoods not only healthy food at affordable prices, but also jobs. Fast food with a social conscience, so to speak. Although the restaurants had to close again a year later, a similar trend can still be seen in hybrid food.

What critics have been complaining about for a long time is that the strong focus on innovative combinations often comes at the expense of quality, price and nutrient content. On top of this, the ingredients are usually highly exotic and not particularly sustainable. As a result, an increasing number of restaurateurs and companies are developing healthy hybrids, and by no means just in America.

Itamaki, for example, comes from Milan and combines the Japanese dish Tamaki – originally an seaweed cone with rice and fish – with an Italian filling. The German food service provider SALOMON FoodWorld, on the other hand, has launched Sushi Burger in a handy to-go format under the “Asia Slider” brand. The Veggie Mushroom option consists of burger buns shaped from uruchi rice and topped with mushrooms, crispy vegetables and soy sauce. As you can see, there’s no way around healthy snacks.


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Shaping the future

Hybrid food has become a creative movement in the food service industry, providing endless possibilities to meet customers’ needs. These have changed significantly thanks to shifts in work and everyday life. Hunger needs to be satisfied quickly and without much effort. Meals are eaten on the go rather than at fixed meal times. Nevertheless, the dishes should be healthy and taste good. Hybrid food is therefore particularly interesting for restaurants in the take-out market. Above all, however, the trend offers restaurateurs the chance to develop, throw out old rules, try out new things and actively shape the future of the food scene.

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