As a new pastry chef who are finally in charge of their own department; changing the menu for the first time can be hard. There are so many factors that go into planning and executing a menu. Sometimes things get over looked. You cant just wake up one day and say “hmmm I think I’m going to change the menu” If you are a pastry chef in a restaurant you will probably have to consult with the head chef for the “ok” before you proceed. You have to think of the season that you are in, or about to be in. It wouldn’t be smart to put figs or watermelon on a menu in the middle of the winter. Those are summer items, and they cannot be locally sourced at a decent price in the middle of the winter. You have to think of the demographic that you are in; are you in a large city where you can be modern and trendy. Or are you in a smaller suburban area where people like to play it safe? Therefore you may have to stick to more traditional desserts with a bit of your own flare.
Your next steps should be compiling a decent sized list of desserts with all of the components that you are thinking about using. Your list should have varying flavors, textures, and ingredients. Make sure you have gluten free, dairy free and nut free options; sorbet doesn’t count. How disappointed would you be if you had dietary restrictions and all that was offered was lemon sorbet or a fresh bowl of berries.
On some slower production days test out some recipes. See how long they sit for before they start to lose their freshness. Are they better cold or at room temp. Are they as easy to assemble as you thought ect.
If your pastry assistant is at that level include them in the process. They might have some great ideas, and flavor profiles that you may have never thought of. Yes, you are still the boss, and you have final say so, but it’s nice to make them feel needed, and it is a great way to see what they are capable of.
Next step plating! This happens to be my favorite trial period. I bring in my camera and a white table cloth and go to work seeing how well or how poorly the desserts photograph. as well as the best way to present them. I always think things look better through the eye of a camera lens.
I have a more modern approach to plating. I prefer white plates ; round, oval, square and rectangle. I HATE colored plates or plates with designs on them I think it takes away from the presentation, but to each his own. The white plate is my canvas, the dessert is my artwork, and the sauce is my freshly painted brushstrokes. Anyone who tells you that pastry and art don’t go together doesn’t know what they are taking about.
While working in Vermont a few years back I met Mary. She was a food and beverage manager who was very critical. She had few likes, and many dislikes, but I do remember some of the wise things she taught me. Taste each dessert in its entirety…even if you don’t want to, and even if you think it will make you fat. The first bite may taste amazing, but is the last bite as l equally amazing as the first? Is the portion too big, too rich, too chocolaty, is it missing something?
Next I would suggest naming your desserts and giving them mouthwatering descriptions SELL YOUR DESSERT!! After that, write out the ingredients in each dessert highlighting allergens. This will come in handy for the servers as well as the platers at night.
Post pictures of the desserts at the plating station so your patters are aware of your expectations. The day of menu changes can be a bit chaotic. You and the General Manager will work together to make sure the menu flows and looks good on paper. You have to explain recipes to production to staff. You have to attend pre-meal and introduce the desserts to the servers and answer and questions they may have. Accept criticism if any. They may have noticed something you did not, and they are the ones that receive direct feedback from guest.
Last step: Spend some time your platers and help them get the first few tickets out.
Okay, now you can start planning the menu for the next season. There is always time for menu development.
I do not advise changing the menu every two weeks or so. Give your desserts a chance to sell, let people decide that they have a favorite before they are off the menu, although if something is not selling after a few weeks maybe it is time for an adjustment. Happy developing and good luck!