Chefs Predict Top Menu Trends for 2012

Locally sourced meat, seafood and produce again top the list of hot menu trends as predicted by chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association.  Hyper-local items, such as ingredients from restaurants’ own gardens, rank fourth on the list, and a third of chefs at full-service restaurants who were surveyed said they had gardens on-site.

rickbayless-rick in crowd

Here’s chef Rick Bayless giving a tour of his backyard garden at a Les Dames event I attended this summer.  In his three-city lot in Chicago, Rick grows an amazing amount of vegetables, salad micro-greens, peppers and herbs for his award-winning restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobambo.


The top 20 predicted hot menu trends identified by the 1,800 chefs who belong to the American Culinary Federation are:

1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Healthful kids’ meals
4. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g., restaurant gardens)
5. Sustainability as a culinary theme
6. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
7. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items
8. Locally produced wine and beer
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals
11. Newly fabricated cuts of meat, such as the pork flat iron and the beef petit tender
12. Farm/estate-branded items
13. Food trucks/street food
14. Artisan spirits
15. House-made/artisan ice cream
16. Health/nutrition as a culinary theme
17. Non-traditional fish, such as branzino, barramundi, Arctic char
18. Fruit/vegetable kids’ side items
19. Children’s mini-meals (e.g. smaller versions of adult menu items)
20. Culinary cocktails (e.g., savory, fresh ingredients, herb-infused)

3575663697_1c8b3b3e94_bNitro-scrambled egg at The Fat Duck by LarryHalff on flickr

The top five preparation trends:
1. Pickling
2. Fermenting
3. Sous vide
4. Liquid nitrogen chilling/freezing
5. Oil-poaching

3014663545_7309aaaec1_oBarramundi, squid and preserved lemon salad with black rice by al_again on flickr

Top five side dishes:
1. Non-wheat noodles/pasta, such as buckwheat
2. Black/forbidden rice
3. Quinoa
4. Red rice
5. Vegetable pickles


Lebneh by ShazzaKataya on flickr

Five hot ingredients
1. Artisan/specialty bacon
2. Artisan cheeses
3. Ancient grains (kamut, spelt, amanranth)
4. Greek yogurt
5. Ethnic cuisine cheeses (lebneh, paneer, halloumi, queso fresco)

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