In the most basic sense, a signature is something that makes you proud. It is a well-received dish that has a history as deep as the flavour. It should speak of you and your approach to food. If it is not instinctive, if it is not the first thing that comes to mind—then maybe it falls short of being your signature dish.
Learn the rules
While the name “signature” implies being one of a kind, you need to know what you are making. Chefs travel around the world to taste, to learn, to experience more than what they see in the kitchen. Before you can develop your dish, do your homework. Perhaps the reason why something feels missing is that you do not know enough to elevate the dish to where it can go.
Learn in any way you can. Read recipes and compare them. Eat good food. Learn to select your ingredients. You might be surprised by links that have always been there but never seen. Looking at the branches of components, the different root crops or the branches of the cuisine, the regional dishes within the country or surrounding regions could all affect the outcome of your recipe.
Play the game
A part of playing the game is the experimenting. Plan your dish, execute it, and write down the changes you want to try next. Keep a meticulous record of what you did and why you think it did (or did not) work out. A primary record is to list down your ingredients and measurements. If you want something more detailed, you can keep note of the quality of ingredients and cooking time. Since you cannot re-taste what you have made before without making the same dish again, write your comments about the final plate. How is the consistency? Is it seasoned well? Is there any after-taste? A journal helps you make educated guesses about your next step, much like a scientist in a lab.
An essential part of experimenting is the ingredients. Chefs go to great lengths to source their ingredients from spices to meats. There is no downtime since you have to coordinate finding the right kind while creating. You can look at IQF vegetable suppliers in the Uk for fresh produce during the winter or for off-season items.
Take a timeout
While the previous items focus on the calm and cautious part of creating dishes, food is very much an art. Take time to draw inspiration. The best signature dishes concentrate on the identity of the chef, their philosophy, their culture, their story—all in a dish. If you find yourself stuck, take time off to revisit what you love; it might spark a new idea.
You can also start from scratch, move on to a new idea and develop it. You can have many signature dishes, taking time off from one to work on another is not giving up, but playing smart. You can always go back when you are ready.
Creating a signature dish is a journey, one that can be very rewarding in the end.