Chefs credit tropical fruit for providing multiple sensory benefits to their menus.
It’s a seasonal asset, said Chef Sydney Meers, owner and chef of the Stove Restaurant, Portsmouth, Va.
“I usually use tropical in the wintertime because it comes in during their summer season and our area is not producing,” Meers said.
Tropical fruit brings value to his menu, Meers said.
“They ship everything overnight now, so it doesn’t take weeks on a cargo truck, and we do a lot of creative things with them.”
Star fruit is an occasional feature, Meers said.
“I use that a lot in decorative ways,” he said.
Star fruit can take “a little bit of work,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the menu, Meers said.
“I do a Sunday brunch once a month and I leave it whole and slice it and toss it in with other fruits,” he said.
The product has practical as well as sensory value, Meers said.
“When you do a lot of egg and pork, which is fat, mostly, you need some fruit to balance that out, so you need to think about that,” he said.
Diners like the novelty of the tropical fruit category, Meers said.
“They get pretty excited about it because they don’t see it around here too much,” he said.
When they do, it has to be top-tier product, said Meers, who has been a restaurateur in the Norfolk-Portsmouth area for nearly 30 years.
“They know what to expect,” he said.
Andre Natera, executive chef of the Pyramid Restaurant & Bar in Dallas, said he uses a variety of tropical fruits in his culinary creations.
“We use pineapple in a pineapple upside-down cake, and we have a passion fruit in a chocolate panna cotta and use the seeds in a puree,” he said.
“We also have a dessert which calls for coconut and make a powder out of the coconut.”
The restaurant also uses fresh lychee with a number of seafood entrees, Natera said.
Seasonality also affects the Pyramid’s menu and its use of tropical fruit, Natera said.
“Certain times of the year, they’re just not good, so we try to make sure we’re using the product when it’s supposed to be used,” he said.
Cost is not a major factor, Natera said.
“As long as you stay within the season, the cost stays in line,” he said.
Chef Frank Randazzo, co-owner of Creative Tastes Catering & Event Production in Miami, said tropical fruit often is part of events he directs.
“They fit in well here in Florida. We use them quite often,” he said.
“I’ll put them on fruit platters, cook with them, put them in salsa and relishes, in sandwiches as toppings. We go nuts with them,” he said.