Food Trends for the Year Ahead. Look Into My Crystal Bowl.

By Chef Colin Smith

A Middle Eastern spice? Yes. Kale and Greek yogurt? Not so much. I looked into my crystal bowl and the following are what’s topping my Movers and Shakers list for the year ahead.

  • Street food – Street food will continue to be popular this year. I am especially digging the cool new tricks on southern-style food. Did somebody say candied bacon and cornbread croutons? Heck yes!
  • Hyper-local sourcing – This trend continues at a very strong pace. People are going to come to expect that a restaurant can pull something out of the ground out back, and it ends up on your plate. Customers are more aware than ever about where their food is coming from. Not to mention there is a great attraction to local distilleries and breweries.
  • Environmentally sustainable food – I think there’s still a big push around this issue. Everyone is going to want to continue supporting the earth. I think it’ll be up to restaurants to figure out ways to reduce their footprint. People certainly care and will continue to voice their concern about these kinds of philosophies in the food industry.
  • Tiny, tasty desserts – I am seeing a movement away from gargantuan servings and toward mini bites. Also, homemade artisan ice creams will be a hit to please the palate this year.
  • Clean and healthy – We already have seen a strong desire for this right out of the gate in 2016, and believe that people will continue to practice clean eating throughout the year. People are going to want to know the breakdowns in their food. The clean eating mantra will be “the less ingredients the better.” If you can’t pronounce it, it shouldn’t be in your food.
  • The pizza and the taco – Chic new approaches on two wonderful staples might include: a great tasting vegetable pizza crust (someone will become rich making that); toppings like pickled vegetables and artisan cheeses are other modern twists; and new ways to shell a taco, be it with jicama or unconventional breads are creative ways to being a little unexpected goodness to foods we all love.
  • The new spices – I’m big on Harissa, an aromatic Chile spice that is widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. The other spice is called Ras El Hanout, a Moroccan spice blend. It is Arabic for “head of the shop” (or “top shelf” in the English expression). Use it on scallops, pork or chicken. Dust your plates with it for a nice presentation.
  • Ethnic food is the winner – Which leads me to my next hot trend – more regional ethnic cuisine. 100% authentic ethnic cuisine is what people want, and much more of it.

Our eating patterns are evolving. People want more value for their food dollar. And they are concerned and more aware about where their food is coming from. Agree or disagree, it’s sure to be an exciting time in food and drink in the year ahead!

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