Happy New Year everyone! Every year groups of food executives, purveyors, chefs and writers try to figure out the food trends for the up-coming year. As a Certified Executive Chef, it is not uncommon to get questionnaires from anyone of a number of groups about certain foods and products that may be a fit for the menu, or ask about what may well be the current food trending right now. Trying to create recipes and flavors that will make customers’ mouths water — and watching out for that food cost — is challenging to say the least.
As an industry chef, I tried to predict what my customers were in the mood for on any given month. It is not the easiest thing to accomplish. Regional foods are somewhat defined, and many of the trends tend to use an ingredient or a flavor in many different ways to appeal to those vast regions and demographics. But, drawing from many sources, and having a feel for movement within the industry, I can say that these are my top picks for 2017 Food Trends:
1) Global Cuisine
Global cuisines are always going to draw curiosity of guests especially with food television shows exploring every corner of the world. With that said, we will have to continue to fascinate guests and push the flavor profiles on menus. However, the lady trying to eat a small live octopus was more entertaining than the food she was trying to explain.
2) Flavors of Japan
Asian flavors have and continue to draw attention. A cuisine that has picked up some momentum is Japanese. While ramen continues on, two noteworthy items are Okonomiyaki (a kind of pizza/unfolded omelet with toppings) and Katsu Sando (crispy pork fried sandwich). It is taking a hold on menus on the West Coast restaurant scene as well as food trucks.
3) Different Meats, European Techniques
European items are also having a unique influence, as French techniques are being used for many mouthwatering creations. Chefs are experimenting with different cuts of meat and offerings from lamb and goat (an ingredient to watch), to new beef cuts like Vegas Strip and Merlot Cut. These different animals and cuts of meat are not only becoming a customer favorite, but also a favorite to restaurants and purveyors who are cashing in on new names for menu items, and old cooking techniques.
4) Artisan Pasta
Another European item to watch is pasta. Italian restaurants have always had the same crowd pleasing favorites, but artisan pasta is becoming a new and popular item. Flavored pastas like saffron, beet, spinach, red pepper, mushroom and squid ink are turning up on menus in a variety of shapes, fillings and sauces. It is a food-cost lover’s dream, as the ingredients and quantity made per recipe come out to pennies per portion, depending on the flavoring and sauces, of course.
5) House Made Sauces and Charcuterie
“Hold the Mayo!” may not be the case much longer as restaurants are developing “House Made” sauces for sandwiches, dipping sauces and drizzles. Other items that are tying in to the house made trend are charcuterie items. Charcuterie, ranging from smoked and cured meats to forcemeats like sausages, pate and terrines, draws curiosity and excitement to the menu.
6) Sustainable Seafood
Sustainable is also another word that is coming up on trends nationwide, as people are becoming more aware of products that can become extinct. This year, as in many years past, sustainable seafood still seems to be a draw for many customers. Menu creators will often utilize the words “local” and “sustainable” on menus to describe environmentally friendly products, and draw the attention of the eco-conscious customer.
7) Homestyle and Comfort Foods
The front page of Atlanta magazine and from the front page for the U.K magazine Delicious – Comfort Foods. IN BIG LETTERS! I have seen magazines that have the same headlines around the holidays especially around the American Holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Most of the magazines around the world will bait the American Audience with the Turkey and Ham, but I have not seen 2 different countries with the same headline. This is an interesting development because if you remember when fine dining started the nose dive it was during a very depressive time in American history, 9/11. People started wanting the feel good and comfort foods from childhood. Chefs reinvented cuisines for just this purpose. Be on the lookout for industry chefs playing around outside the box with comfort foods like Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes, Chicken and Dumplings, Hearty Soups in winter and lighter Soups in the summer. Look for some of your childhood menu items, but please draw the line at fruit cocktail in red Jello!
8) Take Away or Take-Out Foods
You will still see a strong business in people getting food delivered to the house by any means available. Also expect some restaurants that will to go orders on the phone or by phone AP and have it ready when they arrive. The continued trend of prepared food bars at grocery stores will also increase in sales numbers as working Americans will continue to look for convenience, and healthier alternatives.
9) Table Wares are becoming more modern and giving chefs a beautiful palate for the artistic expression of the food
So many more glassware designs and shapes are allowing chefs to use the bowls and plates to drizzle, drip and smear to highlight the course the chef is serving to the customer. A customer eats with his eyes first and then picks up the knife and fork.
10) Non-Alcoholic Drinks. I am a chef that has been to Walt Disney World way too many times
But as my wife and I sat in a Hotel on property with some sort of libation with a chunk of fruit and a bamboo back scratcher stuck it, we could not help to see kids with the same cups filled with a very similar colored liquid with a chuck of fruit and backscratcher. It was then I knew that Disney had a grip on a market. So when I could not help to over hear the guest with the kids say to his wife, “same price with or without alcohol.” This is grabbing the market in many places around the country. Utilization of freshly squeezed fruits and glassware for adults and children certainly can execute a kids menu with these drinks on it.
Honorable Mention) Children’s Menu Developments
Young families will be looking for places that they can enjoy dinner and take the children with them. Menu developers will focus of course on what children eat, but also appeal to Mom and Dad by having healthier items to choose from off menus specifically designed for them.