Food trends are often thought to be fleeting and short lived. But the elusive nature of food trends, much like fashion trends, reveals a more complex reality.
The Kale phenomenon of the early 2010’s actually took root sooner, as far back as 1996 when the LA Times published a feature on the leafy green. In a literal ode, Times writer Susan Self called kale “[t]he Queen of vegetables, elegant and baroque”.
It took over a decade before the first kale chips were launched, and by 2013 Bon Appetit had declared it the ‘year of kale’. And while some argue the kale trend is tapering off, a study of Google Trends shows that, while not increasing in popularity, it is far from dead.
Why should personal and private chefs care? Because it tells us that at least some food trends have deeper and more lasting roots than we give them credit for.
And by being aware of current food trends, especially ones that take regional culture into consideration, chefs can not only experiment with these trends, but also possibly discover what is driving them-and what that means in terms of what to cook for clients, well into the future.
Here, a look at the top food trends for New Yorkers in the next six months:
Food Trend One:
Small Plates & Cheese Fondue
A modest restaurant on East Twelfth Street in the heart of New York is getting a big name for one thing: melted cheese. The model? Specialty cheeses and fondue plates that offer variety and selection. Specialty cheese and fondue, which often have a strong association with French cuisine or cuisine somehow inaccessible to the everyday customer, is being modernized in New York.
The fondue trend originally tapered off in the 70’s, but has increasingly swelled as fears about fat turned to other health concerns. Cheese represents a return to natural foods, but the trend of small plates couples health, convenience, and personalization. And no one does it quite as well as New York.
Try it: While specialty cheeses have been conventionally paired with fruit or crackers, as an appetizer, the trend sweeping New York goes a bit further. Cheese, whether as specialty cold cuts, or in fondue form, is becoming a meal in of itself, a tapas inspired kind of entrees for a lighter supper. If you are going the fondue route, make sure to contrast the buttery flavor and color with fresh bites, like sprigs of mint, or classic fruits and vegetables. Follow an Atlantic City Restaurant’s model and make it a meal by using it as a dipping sauce not only for vegetables but for sausages, fish, and poultry. Make it finger friendly by making kebabs for easy dipping.
Varieties: Fondue comes in many varieties: try Gryuere, or Swiss, for a classic base. While it’s good to stick with milder and creamy cheeses, who can go a little more bold with Beer Cheese Fondue.
Food Trend Two:
Spicing up Pasta
Let’s face it: it’s unlikely pasta will ever go out of style, but pasta itself seems to be getting a New York makeover right now, with a push away from simple and classic dishes and more towards the innovative. With an emphasis on nutrition and bolder flavors, more and more New Yorkers are asking more from their comfort food standby. Unique sauces, and even alternatives to traditional wheat pasta, are hot right now.
Try it: Instead of marinara, swap for more bold flavors and sauces. White wine sauces add a more sophisticated touch, but there’s also a push for fresher spins, like tomato, bacon and mint, or lemon and avocado. Heat is also in: use red pepper flakes, cayenne, and garlic to spice up blander dishes.
Varieties: When it comes to pasta, everything is in. But there is a drive for lower calorie alternatives, like spiralized carrots, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. The added color, flavor, and nutrition take pasta to the next level. For a more subtle approach, toss traditional wheat pasta with spiralized veggies.
Food Trend Three:
Authentic Regional Food
New Yorkers are no longer satisfied with blanket food classifications, like “Mexican”; more and more, they want to see a truly nuanced and authentic approach to cuisine. What does that mean? An emphasis on specific regional cuisine, rather than one large category, brings a more authentic and richer dining experience. So rather than focusing on an entire country’s cuisine, do some research and study into a specific region’s flare. Both you are your clients will discover flavors and combinations you may have never encountered before.
Try it: Really study what is unique to a specific region. Your first clue is ingredients and popular culture. There are plenty of resources, like this guide to the regional cuisines of Mexico, Thailand, and Japan.