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What Will 2010 Bring in the Food World?

January 2, 2010

There are two choices everybody can make at the dawn of a new year.  You can look back, or look to the future.  You can also drink your way through it, but that doesn’t preclude the other two options.  Me, I like to look forward while learning form the past.  What will the New Year bring in terms of the culinary world?  I can come up with my own thoughts about the new trends, or I can be a snarky analyst and comment on what others think.  Guess which option I’m going with?  Luckily there is no shortage of pundits online sharing their predictions.  The fools!  If they had just waited a little longer, they could have just tacked on commentary like me!  Of course once I’m done, we’ll invite Chef Gusteau to chime in, but as it is in the restaurant world first come, first served.  First served in this case will be food, and then we will move on to beverages.

Comfort Food Both the James Beard Foundation and Restaurants & Institutions have placed this at the top of their list, with the Beard Foundation coming up with a twist and predicting meatballs will be a big mover.  R&I stuck with old favorites like pot roast and stew.

Monsieur Anton says:  We hear this every year.  Restaurants are going to get away from fancy cuisine, and go to the traditional home cooking we have all grown up with.  It’s become such an annual choice that it hardly merits comment, but with the down economy and rising food costs, the use of cheaper cuts of meat used in preparations that don’t compromise quality make sense. I particularly like the Beard Foundation’s idea of meatballs that serve as a nice counterpoint to the upscale hamburger joints celebrity chefs have opened.  I’ll add to this thread one word: meatloaf.  Think of all the fun a creative chef can have with this childhood favorite!

Chef Gusteau: Funny thing, ask a chef sometime what he/she eats after work, or on a day off.  I bet you it won’t necessarily be the same level gourmet food that their restaurant would serve; it most likely will be comfort food.  Think of slow roasted meats, braises (see previous post for braising process), stews, etc.  These are foods cooked with love, evoking memories of childhood and foods moms and grandmothers made for the family; foods that instilled the passion for cooking for many chefs today.  Here’s the challenge, although comfort foods like these involve cheaper ingredients, they typically take longer to make, and may even require more attention to make them attractive for restaurant guests.  We may all want a hearty stew for evening comfort at our local restaurant, but we also want it to look amazing.  Talk about eating your cake and having it too.  The best restaurants will master this balance.

Nouvelle Asian Asian restaurants have become a staple in the American dining seen for years with Chinese carry out and sushi bars littering strip malls throughout the land.  Experts are universally forecasting new twists for one of the most ancient cuisines in the world.  Numerous experts are saying that Korean food will be the new player in the food scene, and R&I is even going so far as Asian-Latin fusion.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Monsieur Anton:   I’m all for Asian, but Asian-Latin?  Are you kidding me?  Here come the Moo Gu Gai Burritos!  How about Jalapeño Chow Mein?  This is not “you got peanut butter in my chocolate.”  Some cuisines should not be blended.  As for Korean, I’m on board.  There is no reason, hibachi has taken off and for Korean barbeque to not be in the mainstream.

Chef Gusteau: Asian-Latin…I can see it and imagine what it could be…but I’d have to taste it to believe that it would qualify as a culinary trend.  I can understand Anton’s hesitancy; the idea of mixing star anise and chipotle doesn’t exactly whet the appetite.  But perhaps duck slow roasted with a mole sauce?  See, Anton, I bet you’d eat that!  In any case, I’d wait and see before I start taking any ownership interest in a chain of Uncle Julio’s Wok.

Breakfast for Dinner Restaurant News Resources theorizes that breakfast food will branch out to all times of the day.  Surveys have said that 20% of consumers would order tradition breakfast food throughout the day.    
                                                                                                                                                                            Monsieur Anton:  Brinner!  I love me some breakfast at dinner time.  It is the one time sweet and savory combine to make for one exquisite dining experience.  If you can combine breakfast and lunch to make brunch, why not do it in the evening too?  The one stumbling block I can see is that chefs will have to find ways to upscale breakfast food to justify the evening price points.

Chef Gusteau: Similar to comfort food idea.  Imagine a long day at work or home, and for dinner…duck confit frittata with Anna potatoes.  Presentation is key…no mini packets of inedible marmalade on the table here.  Price will be an issue.  No one wants to pay $25 (typical dinner entrée price) for an egg dish, not even organic eggs from local farmer Bob down the street (Spoiler Alert – hint at local/organic trend ahead).  But if you combine components of a typical breakfast with some more elegant dinner components, you may have a winner.  I think a big challenge here might be that perhaps people want breakfast for dinner, not because they simply can’t get enough eggs in the day, but because it is healthy, filling, and relatively inexpensive.  So even if a restaurant successfully creates a “Brinner” entrée selection, the price point alone may doom it to failure.  Just think, right here in Cleveland we have a few locations of “Yours Truly” restaurants which offer breakfast items all day long.  What high-end restaurant wants to compete with them on these types of items?  Trust me, “Yours Truly” would eat them for breakfast.

Unusual Veggies Chef Gordon of Urban Solace in San Diego expects there to be a focus on nontraditional vegetables such as parsnips, celery root, turnips and Brussels sprouts will be showing up on diner’s plates.                                                                                                                                                                                            Monsieur Anton:  Bring it on!  I’m all for varied veggies, but be sure to do it with a purpose.  I don’t want to see esoteric ingredients just for the sake of being new.  In the end, good cooking is fine ingredients prepared well, and if that means some vegetable I’m not used to seeing, then all the better.

Chef Gusteau: Right here in Ohio we have a nationally renowned vegetable “farm” called the Culinary Vegetable Institute, a creation of Farmer Lee Jones.  Every top Chef in the country gets something from Farmer Jones.  From petite vegetables to micro-greens, the selections from Farmer Jones could even turn the most savage of meat eaters into part-time vegetarians.  Cooking with these types of ingredients is a perfect balance between nutrition and quality dining.  Let’s be honest, sometimes the best vegetables for you just really don’t look fun to eat.  Great Chefs will be able to take great food ingredients, prepare them simply to accentuate the natural beauty of the ingredients, and make them irresistible to eat…and top it off with rack of lamb and you have another winner!  Sorry, I can’t even pretend to be a part-time vegetarian.

Local Foods/Sustainability This one shows up on everybody’s list to the point that it may not even be a trend anymore, but the norm.  Local farms that practice sustainable methods insure the freshest foods to nearby chefs allowing them to work their magic.

Monsieur Anton:  A no brainer.  We need to respect the food and our planet so that it can provide us with food for years to come.  Sustainability must go beyond the farm and on to other means such as the way we raise our meat, and fishing practices.

Chef Gusteau:  Ok, this is a tough one for me.  A lot of my fellow chefs and culinary friends are so involved with the local/slow foods and sustainability movements that I feel that I have to support it as well.  On one level, it makes complete sense.  Good for the local economy, the farmers, the restaurants and the consumers, right?  But wait, are you actually telling me that if I want the best quality sugar snap peas for my restaurant, that invariably they will be from Ohio, locally, and from a farmer that respects sustainability?  And for a competitive price?  Come on, be reasonable.  Just like a good diet, everything in moderation.  There are those foods best produced in Ohio given our climate, growing season, and economy.  Great! Now let’s focus in these areas and work with these farmers to work with sustainable processes.  But remember, these farmers may not be large enough to get their produce to anyone else other than a few restaurants…so don’t expect a wide selection of these from your local grocery store.  Farmers Markets are a great option as well, but while you may be assured of locality, sustainability might be another issue if that is something you care about.  I understand that this is a trend and a long-term better option for everyone.  But understand the facts before you jump on the produce wagon.  Remember the big “organic” trend recently? Organic wasn’t proven healthier nutrition-wise (although the absence of pesticides is considered a healthier option); it was more expensive, and it was relatively unregulated.  I have even heard that in some cases, as long as a food travels less than 500 miles to a destination, it can be considered “local.”  Doesn’t that put our “local” somewhere in Illinois? (Yes, this detail has been addressed and is being refined…but you get my point)

Fight the Fusion Matt Gordon says it is time to give fusion cooking a rest, or at least scale it back.  He feels that chefs need to get back to basics and simplify their food while still being creative.

Monsieur Anton:  I’m a bit conflicted on this one.  I’m all for the “keep it simple stupid” mentality, but I don’t want to stifle the creativity of chefs.  Fusion dining has brought us some of the great innovations of the past culinary generation, but simple, well-cooked food has done so too.  Can’t we have it both ways?  Can’t we all just get along?

Chef Gusteau: Matt Gordon can go “F” himself.  There, I said it.  Authentic Fusion is NOT about trying to impress guests with a crazy combination of cuisines and flavors for the sake of satisfying some unfulfilled lab scientist tendencies.  Fusion is about the subtle combination of either ingredients or cooking methods from multiple cuisines.  Here’s the kicker…the best Chefs creating fusion cuisine are NOT doing it for us…it is purely selfish in nature.  Think about it.  A Chef grows up with a certain type of cuisine that will always remain the focus of their passion.  Along their way of learning and cooking, they become inspired by another cuisine or ingredients from that cuisine.  Fusion is simply combining their inspiration with their true love.  It is natural, and when done successfully, is completely wonderful.  Think of the creators of fusion cuisine…Norman Van Aken and Wolfgang Puck.  Are you going to tell me that these Chefs need to get back to the basics?  Fusion is about the basics…the combining of the best, most basic components of many cuisines into one creative, exciting dish.  Matt can stick to his chicken nuggets if he wants simple…but even that is a combination of French and Italian cuisines, right?  What a moron.

Trends work their way out of the kitchen and to the bar as well, and Gusteau will make some smart alack comment about me knowing my booze.  He’s right, and other people know their hooch as well.  Here’s what they’re saying to look for in the coming year.

Beer Breaks Out It used to be that serious gourmets would insist on wine with their food.  While a fine wine and food paring can be magic, foodies and drinkers alike are arguing the merits of beer as a serious culinary companion.  Micro brews will edge out imports in popularity, and their ability to make seasonal brews will enhance their appeal.          
                                                                                                                                                              Monsieur Anton:   As regular readers of At the Pass can attest, I’ve been drinking a lot of beer lately.  What can I say; it’s my duty as a diligent blogger.  Beer has for years been perceived to be something college kids who couldn’t afford real drinks would get.  Going to a ballgame?  Grab a brew.  Having dinner?  Pass me the corkscrew.  Talented chefs and brew masters alike are finding that beer and food can often make good bedfellows.  It’s about time.

Chef Gusteau:  You’re right, Anton…you are a boozehound!  That said, I can chime in on some finer, “Front of the House” trends.  Beer is back.  The economic state of affairs has helped this comeback without question.  With the growing trend of smaller plates, tapas, sliders, etc. from restaurants, beer becomes a very natural fit with dinner.  Beer will always be with us, which is a good thing.  That said, I like my red wine.  Anton can drink enough beer for both of us.

The Culinary Cocktail Chain Leader magazine touts the bar chef/mixologist for producing new and exciting drinks, while improving the classics by using fine ingredients, just as the chef in the kitchen would.  Look for house made mixers and syrups, and savory cocktails using ingredients pilfered from the chef’s pantry.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Monsieur Anton:  Finally the guy/gal behind the bar gets some respect.  Bar people have been doing some exciting things, and it’s good to see the trend growing.  To all the bar people out there I say cut the Tom Cruise flash and tomfoolery, and just make good, imaginative cocktails.  It’s what we expect the chef to do, and I hold you all to no less a standard.

Chef Gusteau: Preach on Brother Anton! The better the bar, the more successful the restaurant. Any bar trend is a good one, just keep selling those drinks and pushing the dinner specials!  That said, hard to call this a trend, right?  When did the bar ever become less of a focus in any restaurant?  Perhaps Matt Gordon helped come up with the research on this trend. Moron.

Rye Whiskey We’ve gone through the tequila, single malt scotch, premium vodka and infused spirit phases, and now the pundits are declaring 2010 the year of the rye.  Made from at least 51% rye mash, rye whiskey is poised to make a comeback.  Rather mild in taste much like its cousin to the north, Canadian whiskey, it is great straight or mixed in cocktail.  Some brands to look for are Old Overholt, Templeton and Rittenhouse.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Monsieur Anton:  In preparation for this article, I tried a bit Templeton at my local watering hole, and you know what?  It was quite good.  A bit mild to sit and savor, it was very smooth and a nice change of pace from the  heavier whiskeys that flood the market.  I think I’m going to have to do a little more hands on research on this one!

Chef Gusteau:  I love it…Anton has already done research on an emerging trend!  The things he does for all of us, right?  I think the key here would be rye whiskey as either part of mixed drinks, or as a substitute for those who didn’t buy into the Single Malt trend (of which I am a proud member).  I doubt you will get Lagavulin fanatics switching to a rye whiskey anytime soon.  Still, a fun trend to enjoy and watch.  Like anything else, beware of a mass flooding of subpar product on the shelves.

Gourmet Hot Chocolate The James Beard Foundation cites the use of organic cocoa powders, locally farmed milk and cream, and shiny espresso type machines as proof that the hot treat we enjoyed as children coming in from the cold, has grown up.

Monsieur Anton:  See Gusteau?  I’m able to mention a beverage trend without alcohol!  Not that a wee bit of liqueur might not enhance it a bit.  Who can resist the charms of a good cup of hot chocolate, and if Starbucks can make coffee a gourmet item, then why not cocoa?

Chef Gusteau: Sure, Anton, you suggest a non-alcoholic beverage but couldn’t resist suggesting that you “temper” yours with healthy doses of Baileys, Kahlua, or even a touch of peppermint vodka!  Can’t blame you on this one, though.  I think gourmet hot chocolate will be what most trends are…a flash in the pan and then gone.  Why the bleak outlook from Gusteau on such an innocent and sweet trend? A trend, to mature and become successful and sustainable, must endure.  Who is going to drink sweet hot chocolate during the spring and summer seasons?  Coffee drinkers will not switch over, despite occasional forays into the chocolate decadence.  Sure, a peppermint hot chocolate drink from your favorite coffee shop during December and January might be fun.  But then?  I see the increase of organic cocoa powders and locally farmed dairy as carrying on the culinary trend into the pastry world.  Think of a decadent chocolate ganache with a sweet vanilla sabayon sauce for dessert (after the entrée of gourmet vegetables and duck omelets, of course).  That concept has more staying power, and more room for variety and growth.

Ok…now MY culinary trends for 2010:  Soups become a big seller again (and I am not referring to French Onion…check out our recipe for Truffled Cauliflower Soup and you’ll see what I am referring to); “newer” meats such as goat become popular on menu listings; filled pastas as a vehicle for culinary creativity (chefs are filling pastas with everything…Chef Symon has beef cheeks in his!); Matt Gordon gets demoted if not fired for his insolence; and the final trend for 2010…”At the Pass” will become the most popular food/beverage blog in the Greater Cleveland Area…or Anton owes me $5.

There you have it.  There are several more trends out there.  Opinions are like…well you know what they are like.  A simple Google search will find countless more predictions.  It’s what we like to do as we bid farewell to one year, and welcome another.  So I’m sure you can find more, and I encourage you to come up with some of your own.  What do you look forward to in the culinary year of 2010?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 3:16 pm

    I had been asked to a cold weather barbecue plus asked to provide some sauce, can someone share a good recipe?.

    • January 31, 2010 3:53 pm

      BBQ Sauce recipes…no need! It is so easy to create your own from scratch and adjust it to your tastes. 50%-75% of the sauce can be ketchup. For the rest, consider adding any of the following (in amounts you decide) molasses, brown sugar, honey, dijon mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, chipotle in adobo, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, liquid smoke, red wine vinegar, mangoes, pineapple, onions. For example, you could do 1 Cup of ketchup, 1 tbspn each molasses and brown sugar, 1 tsp each onion powder and garlic powder, 1 tbspn worcestershire sauce, and 1 Tbspn of chipotle in adobo. Too thick? Add water. Too spicy? Add ketchup/honey. Need it to be smokier? Add 1 tsp liquid smoke. Have fun with the sauce…add cooked onions and mangoes to add a tropical flair to the sauce. Be daring and creative…and post your award winning sauce back on At The Pass for all of us to enjoy! Chef Gusteau.

  2. January 31, 2010 2:46 pm

    The information presented is top notch. I’ve been doing some research on the topic and this post answered several questions.

  3. February 7, 2010 10:06 pm

    Just browsing around and found your site. Very fine post. Will be adding you to my RSS reader.

    • February 7, 2010 10:41 pm

      Glad to hear…and thanks for stopping by. We are constantly adding new topics and having lots of fun. Any recommendations just let us know! Chef Gusteau.

  4. February 8, 2010 1:13 pm

    Hi, I applaud your blog for informing people, very interesting article, keep up it coming 🙂

  5. February 15, 2010 12:38 pm

    Thanks, that is a very good contribution. I found it via MSN and immediately incorporated into my feedreader. I am pleased to soon be back here to read again! Best greets

  6. February 27, 2010 4:40 am

    Wow Great blog , i am gonna visit back soon…

  7. February 27, 2010 5:48 am

    I Love this show. So many great things in it. If you havent tried it it , i say atleast check out the pilot. I cant wait for next episode 😀

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