by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Our eating and dining patterns change constantly and 2018 will be no different. Carol has informed me that for this coming year we will be “eating in” more, which means that I will be spending more time in our kitchen. Home cooked meals are a major trend for 2018, and one reason is when you prepare your own food, you know where it came from and you have more of a connection to it.
Everyone is waiting to see how the Amazon recent acquisition of Whole Foods Market will change the grocery and food delivery business. Many believe that meal-kit startups such as Blue Apron have lost their novelty. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week stated that “an estimated 70 percent of customers of Blue Apron stop regularly buying its meals six months after signing up.”
Plant-based foods. Whether you are doing it for your health, the planet or the animals, everyone benefits. One article predicted that plant-based foods will become the new organic. Every time I visit the dairy case at the store there are new varieties in the dairy case making it harder to find regular milk. There are soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, cashew milk and coconut milk. In addition, most of these non-dairy milks are available sweetened or unsweetened, unflavored or flavored in vanilla and chocolate.
The app “Deliciously Ella” by Ella Woodward, who boasts 1.1 million followers on Instagram, and Niomi Smart, who has more than 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube, have written cookbooks based on the plant-based diet. Over the past decade, consumers under the age of 40 have upped their fresh vegetable intake by 52 percent. I saw a program this past weekend where sushi grade tuna (“Save the Tuna”) was made from tomatoes. More and more foods are being scientifically manipulated, and you see them in various blends in the meat department. The tracking firm Mintel reports that 31 percent of Americans practice meat free days and 35 percent get most of their protein from non-meat sources.
Kids’ dishes and kids’ interest in food is another trend I see first-hand. My granddaughters are glued to the TV watching cooking programs, especially the ones featuring young chefs. Restaurants are now offering nutritious items on kids’ menus that taste great. Pizza and chicken tenders will probably always be mainstays, but whole grains, veggies and fruit are favorites, too. We recently dined with the family and my oldest granddaughter reinforced this trend when she chose a Caesar salad and calamari for the appetizer. Who knew calamari when I was growing up? At Lincoln Land Community Collge we offer a number of kids cooking classes and during the summer have cooking and baking camps. The kids are very knowledgeable about food, and it is not uncommon for them to discuss their favorite exotic herbs and spices. For me, it was salt and pepper and for my father, Tabasco.
Food waste reduction. “Root to Stem” eating. I did not realize it but around 50 percent of the food produced in the world is wasted and it is believed that 50 percent of the food we throw away is avoidable.
We all know how and why food is wasted. Often it gets damaged in production and transit. Around a quarter of all food waste is simply attributed to exceeding the expiration date, while another 25 percent of food waste happens because the food is deemed to have an unpleasant look, taste or smell. According to the hunger relief organization “Feeding America,” America produces an estimated 70 billion tons of food waste each year. Consumers and restaurants are making new efforts to reduce this practice and examples are “nose to tail” butchery and using the entire produce including the stems and leaves. Plant based foods that are waste-free such as grapes are gaining traction. A study by Unilever distributed to restaurateurs revealed that 72 percent of U.S. diners said that they care about how food waste is handled, and 47 percent are concerned enough that they would be willing to spend more money to eat at a place that actively tries to reduce its food waste production.
International cuisines continue to be a hot trend. Cuisines such as Indian that utilize plant- based ingredients are on the rise. Amandeep from the Indian restaurant, “Flavor of India” in Springfield tells me that people come in just to buy their naan. New on the menu at TGI Fridays is Mediterranean Shrimp Naan- a sandwich consisting of grilled shrimp with cucumber yogurt sauce, romaine, kale, garlic, basil and tomato on naan. Naan is now available in packages in the grocery, and some say will be replacing pita in popularity.
The way we dine is also changing. A newly remodeled McDonald’s looks more like a Starbucks with its different style seating areas and high and low tables you can actually move. Today we are into more casual, all-day dining catering to those seeking everything from coffee klatches in the morning to salads for lunch to sit down dinners.
The trend today is for flexible menus accompanied by affordable pricing to encourage multiple visits a week. Food establishments are defying definition, as fast food, casuals, coffee shops or bars are instead borrowing aspects of many of those formats to keep up with the rhythms of contemporary life. I think of Café Moxo downtown and Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet on the West Side. One of my favorite all-time chefs is Richard Long, and he is now assisting Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet in this transformation. Stop by there in the afternoon for a glass of wine and a small plate. Carol and I would hate to see the decline of the white tablecloth restaurant but realize there is a shift to the all-day casual concept. The millennials are here and their style is also here as they search for locations that are convenient, fast and accommodate dietary challenges. In many cases these same establishments will also offer take out, online ordering and delivery.
Carol and I wish you a Happy New Year. If you have not prepared your New Year’s resolutions, here are a few to consider:
1. Master a new cooking technique
2. Try a new cuisine
3. Consider taking a cooking class
4. Cook with unfamiliar ingredients
5. Visit a new restaurant every month