Article by Chef Martin Lopez
I believe that a food trend can take on many different forms not just your regular fad diet. Not only that, but it’s not at all surprising that food trends these days are crossing all borders (and boundaries) after more than a decade of mass communication online.
The world of food is finally escaping those big, heavy cookbooks.
So what exactly is a food trend? Pay close attention: A food trend is when a hip, new gastropub opens up in your town, a bizarre sandwich at McDonalds shows up on bus stops and tv commercials, or when fun attempts at cooking pop up on your Instagram feed.
These are just some of the ways the web is mixing and matching tasty ingredients from cultures all over the world.
Professional chefs are getting creative in the kitchen too! We are always brainstorming, marrying ingredients, and adopting cultural traditions to try and form new trends. Our customers want exciting new ways to dine and entertain. New diets and palates are always forming. Culture never stops.
If part of your professional role is to bring food to people, the first step to upping your catering game is learning about what’s happening out there. With that in mind, here are some of the most interesting food trends that I have seen in 2018.
“Do you want to get poke?” This was once a question that raised more questions than answers. But only a couple years after being adopted from our country’s greatest vacation spot, poke places are more common, and so is the public’s appetite for Hawaiian food.
And for good reason! If you’re not familiar, “poke” is often (but not always) a dish comprised of cube-shaped fish, often served with rice in bowls. It’s healthy, delicious, and comes in tons of varieties! With poke places becoming less obscure, you won’t risk alienating your customers if you keep this on rotation.
Speaking of healthy, have you Googled “probiotics” lately? It used to be that probiotics were synonymous with yogurt, but with food items like tempeh widely substituting meats in areas like the West Coast, and with fermented drinks like kombucha now easy to find in grocery stores nationwide, we have ourselves a super healthy food trend.
Probiotics are said to help with digestion, so they can be an especially attractive food item to substitute for fried foods. To take advantage of this food trend, try ordering meals with spicy kimchi, pickles, and even sauerkraut.
Today, as brands like “Beyond Meat” are finding their ways into more and more grocery stores, appetites are growing for a wider palate than your average roast.
I talked about tempeh earlier, but that’s only one of various meat alternatives that have become more mainstream. In 2018, soy-based ingredients like tempeh and veggie burgers are not simply alternatives, but tasty options.
Know a recipe that calls for meat? It’s as simple as swapping it out, which means chefs are pumping out all kinds of so-called “science-based” entrees. Seek them out and see for yourself how far we’ve come!
People love food trucks not just because their food is delicious, but also because they make you feel like you have a direct connection to someone in the kitchen. If you’re hiring a truck for your event or looking to stylize your menu, “street food” has taken on many forms besides tacos. (Although those are great too!)
If you want to take on a street angle for your spread, try items like arepas, falafels, jerk chicken and bánh mì. You can’t go wrong.
If you’re worried I’m about to propose catering your next event with drugs, rest assured you’re safe! As laws around the country about cannabis are changing yearly, so are food trends. And one of the more surprising side effects of this are basic cooking items such as cannabis oil and cannabis butter (or “cannabutter”).
No, these aren’t your father’s brownies; chefs in places like the west coast are experimenting with strands of THC for cooking with new flavors, aromas, and relaxing effects. In a place where you can legally incorporate these ingredients, you can make quite a buzz by putting this on the menu!
Anybody who has cooked with different varieties of milk knows how this one ingredient can single-handedly impact flavor as much as almost anything. One of the latest trends in this vein is pea milk, which brings hearty nut flavor to drinks and foods and, more importantly, are great alternatives for our lactose-intolerant and nut-allergic friends.
Want to see how pea milk can change the flavor of your food? Well good news; it’s a healthy food trend, so you won’t feel bad trying it out even if you don’t have allergies.
The last food trend I’m highlighting is also the simplest. Yep, just mushrooms! Foods rise and fall in popularity all the time, but the focus on plant-based and health-related ingredients has really risen the stock of the average mushroom.
The good news is that while the public has mushrooms in the spotlight, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of this. Risotto is tough to make in mass, but very filling, so you need less of it. Topping off your stir-frys, breakfast foods, or even smoothies with the right type of mushroom can really help out an average recipe.
As we look at some of these trends that are forming this year, think about how you can take advantage of them.
Maybe some venues you do business with already have some of them rolled out in their operations. But if not, don’t be afraid to consult with your creative team, your chef or your F&B director, as many venues, hotels and restaurants – small or large – are always looking for the opportunity to step up the game. Especially if you let them know their menu is being left behind.
Chef Martin Lopez