The world of food is an ever-evolving mélange of old and new tastes at once both familiar and exotic. This is evidenced by the traditional neighborhood eateries that go decades without a single menu change, or the new hot spots where young, envelope-pushing entrepreneurs fuse flavors from throughout the world with their daring recipes. But no matter how bold or stubborn the chef, outside forces inevitably dictate – to an extent – what does or does not work in a restaurant.
Certain considerations, such as a sagging economy, seasonal produce and the current cultural landscape all conspire to create the shifts we all see in the restaurant industry on a regular basis. With that in mind, here is a list of some trends to keep an eye out for. Some of these trends are already known and will increase in popularity, while others are expected to take the culinary world by storm in 2013.
As globalization brings more and more people together, cultures merge and clash throughout the world. This is never more accurate than in the world of food. Look for more global flavor profiles to be the rule rather than the exception, with diners able to travel around the entire world on a single plate. This trend goes beyond mere fusion and breaks all the rules to provide a multi-ethnic sensory assault on the taste buds. Pizzas topped with hummus? Tacos garnished with kimchi? Fried sushi and cheeseburgers? These can be found in culinary fringe circles now, but the mix-and-match ethos inherent in these incongruous pairings will be ubiquitous in 2013.
Forget about Dr. Atkins, the current trend of moving away from bread has less to do with abandoning carbs and more to do with the availability of different carbs that were heretofore a rarity in western culture. Look for more and more sandwiches to be constructed using things like bao, flattened tostones, rice cakes and even arepas.
As different cultures encroach on the cultural landscape and merge with others, diners become more adventurous. What were once viewed as the cheap or fringe cuts of meat used exclusively in ethnic kitchens are now readily embraced by a large percentage of the populace. And this trend will only gain momentum in the coming year as more and more people discover the subtle joys of a tender bit of perfectly cooked tongue or a nicely fried pig ear. Expect to see more and more upscale, white-tablecloth joints serving chicken livers, gizzards, tripe, trotters and oxtail to eager diners.
THE JOYS OF PICKLING
While it’s not exactly clear when the whole pickling craze began, what is certain is that it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. That’s because chefs the world over are increasingly finding new and creative ways to pickle just about anything. More and more restaurants these days are serving up bowls of house-made pickles made up of ingredients as exotic as Mexican peppers, ginger, star anise and paprika.
FEWER INDEPENDENTLY OWNED RESTAURANTS
One of the many tragic consequences of the global economic downturn is the effect it’s had on smaller restaurants. Whereas larger restaurant chains can whether almost any economic storm with the help of mass discounts and giveaways, small mom-and-pop establishments often don’t have the means to compete in such a depressed economy. And while things are certainly better in the restaurant industry than they were a couple years ago, there’s still a long way to go. Look for the U.S. to lose a few thousand restaurants in the coming year.
These are just a few of the main trends that will drive the dining world in 2013. And if the past is any indicator, there are likely some surprises in store for us in the coming year as well.
Kevin Jones is a professional blogger that writes for MyNationalGrocers.com, a leading restaurant supply company.