As retro-relevant as they seem today, tater tots have actually been around for quite a while. They were invented back in 1953 by Idaho potato farmers (and brothers) Golden and F. Nephi Grigg as a way to use excess potato shavings that came from making frozen French fries. The brothers built a factory on the border between Oregon and Idaho, which inspired the name Ore-Ida. The frozen food they created became a cafeteria lunch staple, a late-night snack and, these days, a favorite dish of chefs seeking a low-cost, low-labor product with undeniable diner appeal.
This softer, pillowy cousin of the French fry can be found on menus all over the country, appearing in breakfast burritos, wrapped in bacon or smothered in pizza sauce. They’ve spawned a whole new type of appetizer called “totchos,” in which the oven-baked or fried tots are the base for melted cheese, peppers and other toppings. Tots are served as Bloody Mary garnishes, bar snacks and stand-alone entrees. Some chefs have even skipped the potato part altogether, subbing in everything from pig’s trotters to cauliflower in place of spuds.
How chefs are menuing them
The sturdy tot can survive not just a long stint in the freezer, but can also handle as much sauce and garnish as a chef wants to throw at them. At San Francisco’s WesBurger ‘N’ More, for example, the Curry Tots are topped with curry, Kewpie mayo, sriracha and scallions. Atlanta’s The Nook on Piedmont Park has reported that it serves as many as 1,500 orders each month of what it calls The Nook’s World Famous Totchos™. Variations include chicken sausage gravy, mac ‘n cheese, Coca-Cola barbecue sauce, Andouille sausage, pulled pork or house-made chili.
Tots, the ultimate blank, savory canvas for chef creativity, have even appeared in fusion-tastic versions like Minneapolis-based chef Yia Vang’s Hmong Hotdish with roasted root veggies, pork and red curry gravy, topped with tater tots, scallions, cilantro and lime. Another fusion-forward take is the Kimchi Tater Tots served at vegan-kosher restaurant The Cinnamon Snail in New York’s Pennsy Foodhall. They’re served with gochujang, scallions and sriracha mayo. While such innovative, culture-blending tot treat would probably confound the brothers Grigg of Ore-Ida, they’re all right at home in today’s tot-universe.
Dip them right
A great tot deserves a great dip on the side, and T. Marzetti™ foodservice has you covered with lots of delicious options. Consider serving Blue Cheese, Bold Blends™ Korean Barbeque Sauce, Bold Blends™ Honey Chile Sauce, Bold Blends™ Sriracha Bourbon Sauce, Bold Blends™ Tropical Habanero Sauce, Chipotle Ranch or Ranch Veggie as a dipper for your next tater tot special. Our signature dressing and sauce selections turn even a humble dish of tots into a House Specialty.