The One Shake Executive Chef John Karangis Wishes Made The Shake Shack Menu

You might know them for their burgers, but "shake" is in Shake Shack's name, and fans know to keep an eye out for the chain's ever-changing lineup of flavors. From the cherry blossom "Shack-ura" shake to the star fruit garnished "Gold Star Shake," the treats seem to go as soon as they've come. That's why Tasting Table asked Shake Shack executive chef and VP of culinary innovation John Karangis at an event about his top picks from all the creamy creations in the company's history.

To celebrate Tabasco and Shake Shack's collaboration, the restaurant created a menu with the help of James Beard Award-winning chef Nina Compton, one of which was a vanilla shake infused with spicy hot honey and Tabasco chiles — the kind of avant-garde dessert that Karangis says he loves best. "There's a sweet and savory and salty element in the honey that pairs really well and tones down the sweetness of the custard," said the chef. 

But, while Karangis is all about the hot honey treat, there's one particular sweet-savory shake that the chef would love to see become a permanent menu item: the white truffle butterscotch caramel shake. The Shake Shack team created it while testing February's white truffle menu, says Karangis, but ultimately decided not to run it. "We just felt like it wasn't a 'for everyone' kind of thing. If we had to do it all over, I would lobby harder to put it on the menu."

Karangis is craving white truffle butterscotch caramel

If you've never tried them before, white truffles have a pungent, smoked-cheese-like taste combined with a strong umami mushroom flavor. The fact that these flavors never translated to Shake Shack's dessert territory is precisely the problem with the dessert scene at large if you ask the chef. "I would love to see shakes be a little less sweet and a little more savory so there's a closer link between the savory, whether it's a burger or chicken that you're having," said Karangis. "That would be my jam."

There's a scientific reason why sweet and savory is the ultimate combo. As evolutionary omnivores, humans have become hard-wired to crave a variety of tastes to help encourage our bodies to get all the nutrients and carbohydrates we need — that is, both sugar and salt. By layering sweet and savory flavors together at once, two of the body's flavor receptors are satiated, and it's a physically natural response to crave more. In other words, you kind of can't not dig it.

That's why, says Karangis, "Desserts shouldn't be the antonym of savory." Plus, from a chef's perspective, the combo would be a welcome culinary challenge for the chain and, subsequently, for the fast-food industry at large. "Most restaurants in fine dining serve more savory items than sweet ... so I think if we were able to 'savor-ize' the pastry items, we would be a lot more accepting of it as the dining public."