I’m back again with more food trend predictions for 2014.
Two new reports were released – The 2014 Culinary Forecast from the National Restaurant Association and Top Ten Food Trends for 2014 from The Food Channel. Check out the links for the full reports, I’ll just call out a few highlights here.
The NRA report is especially robust — the trends are based on surveys from 1,300 American Culinary Federation chefs. And The Food Channel, in conjunction with CultureWaves, created an insightful two-part trend list with lots of examples that bring the trends to life. Here’s a look at The Food Channel’s top 10 list, with some proof points from the NRA:
1. The Midwestern Food Movement
As a Midwest gal originally from Missouri, I’m thrilled to see the rise of Midwestern cuisine. It’s about time the middle of the country gets some culinary respect! This trend is all about farm fresh and local taken to the next level, using the types of food readily available in the Midwest. One example The Food Channel called out was Gerard Craft’s Niche restaurant in St. Louis. I haven’t been there yet, but I’m eager to check it out. I love their approach…
At Niche, we work to create a menu of humble ingredients and serve them in a way that shows their potential. To take the common and remind you how beautiful it can be. We look to the past to see what was here long before us and we look to the future to see what might be possible. As chefs we are never satisfied and always evolving. We are more in awe of a carrot or potato, grown by one of our trusted farmers, than we are by a white truffle flown in from Italy. To us, this is what defines cooking in Missouri.
2. Low Tea
Tea has been called out as a trend in several 2014 food trend reports, including Sterling-Rice and Andrew Freeman. But this trend is not just about the drink, it’s about the occasion. We’ve all come to know “high tea,” but this trend is “low tea,” which The Food Channel describes as a light meal or snack, usually served around 4 pm and often shared with guests. They see a return to the “extra” meal and restaurants are responding with more snack, small plates and sharing items on menus.
3. Distracted Dining
As a registered dietitian, I know the downfalls of distracting dining. To be a mindful eater, it’s important to give food your full attention. It’s much easier to overeat if you fill your fork while reading, watching TV or playing on your phone. Yet, more restaurants will be enabling the distracted diner by adding menu items that accommodate the cell phone obsessed — so you can eat with one hand and hold your phone in the other hand. So expect to see more sandwiches, wraps, small bites and other items that don’t require two-fisted dining. The Food Channel says we’ll also see more restaurants going in the opposite direction by creating “no cell phone” zones. Yet the majority will give in to their multi-tasking patrons.
4. Bread Rises to the Top
Here’s another sign that carbs may be making a comeback — a trend also noted by Technomic. The Food Channel says breads continue to be big, even in a gluten-free world. When looking at the overarching trend, they said it’s about the flavor experience of bread and how it’s moving more to the center of the plate. Yes, bread is even becoming a main course. Instead of simply being a carrier, bread is now surrounding itself with a variety of proteins and flavors. Expect to see breads in more forms, dipped in more than just egg batter, bread with benefits (such as flax seed), salted bread and flavored breads. Restaurateurs and home cooks are rethinking how bread impacts a meal — with bread salad, breaded meatballs and meatloaf, bread pudding, muffin cups, flatbread pizzas, and stuffing casseroles. One of my favorite bread experiences lately was the Monkey Bread at The Bristol in Chicago. Chef Chris Pandel has gained lots of acclaim for this delicious pull-apart bread that’s topped with sea salt and served with melted dill butter. Amazing! When eating with a group of colleagues recently, we had to order a second round of the Monkey Bread because we immediately devoured our first order. Flatbreads (such as naan, pappadum, lavash, pita, tortilla) and pretzel bread made the “what’s hot” list in the 2014 NRA report.
5. Investing in Food
The Food Channel says restaurants are hot again and the financial community has taken notice with more restaurant investments. The overarching trend goes beyond investing and is more about the way the food world has begun building trust. We get behind their causes, support their staff and even use our own social media to help build their brand equity.
6. Ethnic Inspired
The Food Channel predicts Indian will be the breakout cuisine in 2014 — a trend also called out as Modern Masala in the Flavor Forecast from McCormick (client). It’s the flavor profiles of India that are expected to be big — curry, coconut, ginger, garlic and more — which are being incorporated into Americanized versions of Indian cuisine. For instance, naan is being used for pizzas and sandwiches. Look for Jhajhariya, a Indian dessert made with corn, milk and sugar, showing up in more places.
7. Hybridization of Food
Enter a new mashup — what The Food Channel calls the Hybridization of Food, which they describe as enhancing protein with vegetables, such as adding mushrooms to meat. I know this has become a big focus for the Mushroom Council. You can significantly slash the fat in a burger by incorporating meaty-tasting mushrooms. One restaurant that has had success with this concept is the FLIP Burger Boutique in Atlanta that features a mushroom burger called “earth and turf.” The Food Channel says it may have started with sneaky moms and a blender, but it’s a growing trend.
8. Small Scale Molecular Gastronomy
Home cooks may never achieve the level of molecular gastronomy made famous by chefs such as Chicago’s Grant Achatz of Alinea, but The Food Channel says they’re doing it themselves with pickling and brining. Both of these techniques create chemical changes in the food, which provides new flavors. It’s a bit of “what goes around comes around,” because this sort of chemical play is what our great-grandmothers did simply to preserve food longer. Now it’s a trendy way to prepare meats and vegetables. Pickling was the top trend in the preparation methods category in the National Restaurant Association survey.
9. Personal Shopping
It’s never been easier to have someone else do your food shopping for you. Local grocery stores offer apps to help you select your items, then they pull them off the shelves, bag them up and deliver them to your door. You can also shop online and have fresh food delivered overnight. People want delivery of more than pizza — they want meals, then want groceries and they feel entitled to customization — and they are willing to pay the price.
10. Craft Everything
The Food Channel predicts that “craft” is going to move beyond small batch production into something bigger to take craft to the masses. They cite evidence that people don’t really understand the difference between microbrew, craft beer and contract brew. Expect to see the return of beer in cans, beer pairings and beer in fast food outlets. The NRA report top trends in the alcoholic beverage category: micro-disilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, “new make” whiskey, gluten-free beer and food-beer pairings.
Virtual Food is a bonus trend from The Food Channel trend report. There are now 3-D food printers that take paste and extrude it into any shape, meaning complicated food “structures” like decorated icings can be “printed.” They predict the food world will see more on this horizon and that it will have an impact on food in a big way. It may start with decorator icing, but once this goes mainstream, beautiful food may be printable.
Images: Niche in St. Louis, Monkey Bread at The Bristol via M + A , Naan Pizza with Figs via Soma R. , Earth and Turf Burger at the FLIP Burger Boutique, craft beer from Ivan Tortuga , Chicken Wrap via Seattle Food Geek , Apple Cider Brined Pork Chop via Epstein Design Virtual Food, 3-D food printers via Tilt Studios