Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
News & Press: Social Media

Robin Selden, ICA Board President Featured in Forbes

Thursday, December 7, 2017  
Share |

Top 10 Food and Restaurant Trends of 2017


,
I delve into the business of business travel, and often the fun too.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

 

Say what you will about 2017, but it's been a great year for food. And once again we've compiled 10 the year's best food and restaurant trends—and places to experience them—into our annual list.

As always, the process of compiling the list begins with collecting trend ideas from restaurants all over the U.S., some 50 ideas in all this year. To get to the final 10, these ideas were then evaluated by an esteemed panel of culinary experts:

  • Linda Burum is a freelance food writer and a contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine and other publications for decades, and author of the landmark book A Guide to Ethnic Food in Los Angeles. She's a frequent judge for the James Beard Foundation awards.
  • Robin Selden is the current president of the International Caterers Association and was named their Chef of the Year in 2016 and Caterer of the Year in 2017. She is Managing Partner & Executive Chef of Connecticut- and New York-based Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning. (Full disclosure: Robin and I are cousins.)
  • Mike Thelin is a food and hospitality expert and advisor to many leading brands and organizations. He is co-founder of Feast Portland, one of America’s top culinary festivals.
  • Bret Thorn is Senior Food & Beverage Editor of Nation’s Restaurant News with responsibility for spotting and reporting on food and beverage trends across the country. He has also studied traditional French cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
  • Izabela Wojcik, our newest panelist, is the Director of House Programming for the James Beard Foundation, organizing more than 200 culinary events yearly at the James Beard House in New York. She often moderates and guest judges culinary events and serves on the Kitchen Cabinet, the advisory board to the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

This year's trends generally fit into larger movements, around healthy eating - with a greater emphasis on vegan cooking and curative foods - and concern for the planet through sustainable practices. Linda Burum also notes a generational shift in ethnic cooking, where second- and third-generation children of immigrant families are taking over their parents' kitchens and shattering norms.

Some items on previous years trend lists have gone truly mainstream: avocado toast, poke, foods in bowls, fried chicken, truffles, kale, the growing acceptance of farm-raised fish, Brussels sprouts, customizable fast food, upscale vegan cooking and restaurants filtering and bottling water on site. Click for previous lists from 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

 

Activated charcoal turns just about any food into something highly Instagrammable, like black ice cream. Image: Shutterstock

 

1 - Activated Charcoal

 

Activated charcoal powder made a big splash this year for two reasons: touted detoxifying benefits and turning foods black.

"It's so startling to see everything from ice cream and cream puffs to croissants and cocktails in their magnificent ebony form," says Izabela Wojcik. Black foods are "a social media darling, the Goth food answer to the recent rainbow and unicorn trend. It also helps that black food and drinks are very Instagrammable."

Bret Thorn calls it "a dumb trend, but definitely a trend." He's skeptical about activated charcoal's claims of health benefits, "based on the bizarre notion that it will magically detoxify us, as if we don't have livers."

"Fun for Instagram" it may be, says Mike Thelin, "but I think more of a one-hit wonder than a great album we'll still be listening to in 20 years."

"I know it's in," says Robin Selden, but "I just can't embrace this and even sell this in catering."

 

Getty Images

 

Four types of fruit powder in glasses

 

2 - Ashes and Powders

No, we're not talking instant cocoa, powdered sugar or even powdered green tea. "After chefs got bored with sauces from squeeze bottles," Linda Burum says, "they borrowed various dehydrated substances from the molecular gastronomy movement to splash decoratively onto plates – some even contribute flavor to the dish."

Sprinkled on top or splashed along the side, "It's an impressive technique, providing a pop of color and texture to a dish, but more importantly a boost of intense flavor," says Izabela Wojcik.

"We dehydrate everything and love it!" Robin Selden says, describing how she makes powders and ashes "as a garnish or sprinkle to anything from sweet to savory! It enhances & intensifies the flavors of whatever is being dehydrated. Also awesome as a drink rimmer for cocktails."

"This speaks to two trends," says Bret Thorn, "the growing popularity of burnt and smoky flavors and the movement to cut down on waste [see below]. If a vegetable doesn't look great, you can always burn it up and use it as a garnish."

 


Getty Images


Forget your old style vegetables. "Today's crudités feel more like a farmers market tapestry of gorgeous and colorful produce."

 

3 – Crudités

"There's something nostalgic about a big plate of veggies," says Mike Thelin. "But today's crudités feel more like a farmers market tapestry of gorgeous and colorful produce – nothing like Aunt Maude's baby carrots and raw broccoli with ranch."

At restaurants like Fat Radish in Brooklyn, Tusk in Portland, PYT in Los Angeles and Al's Place in San Francisco, "vegetables are both opening act and headliner," he continues. And they're front and center at the nationwide locations of True Food Kitchen.

It's not just the vegetables, Bret Thorn says; accompanying dips can also make the experience. "Give them a great, healthy and delish dip, and the crudités will go," agrees Robin Selden, adding the hashtag #allaboutthedip.

 

Image: Shutterstock

A variety of grains, including gluten-free ones: amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, teff, black and white quinoa, chia and flax seeds.

 

4 - Exotic Grains

"It was the search for gluten free grains and low-gluten grains that seemed to pique interest in the hidden gems: kamut, sorghum and the like," says Mike Thelin, "even though many exotic grains are not gluten free."

"Quinoa, farro and chia are at the top of my list," says Robin Selden. "Packed with nutritional value, you can work with these grains in so many ways both savory and sweet."

"Move over quinoa…Here comes sorghum!" proclaims Izabela Wojcik about the next round. "It's a cereal grain but is also used as a sweetener. And it's a staple of the Southern kitchen, which in and of itself was a trend a few years ago. Popped sorghum adds texture, crunch and flavor and has become a bit of a chef obsession. We will be seeing it on menus coast to coast."

And though it's not a grain, chickpea flour gets special mention because it's versatile, high in protein and gluten free. "Some of the world's best food cultures have been in on the chickpea flour game for centuries," Thelin says. "This is a fun ingredient to play with and one that's here to stay."

 

Getty Images

 

5 - Edible Insects

"Historically, eating insects was born of necessity and is still found among the world's great street foods," says Mike Thelin.

"Critters are a great source of low-on-the-food-chain protein enjoyed in resource-poor countries like Eastern Thailand," adds Linda Burum. "Ground into flour, they’re a boon to starving populations needing disaster relief if hidden in foods familiar to them."

"But somewhat ironically," Thelin continues, "it was some of world's most revered temples of gastronomy from Pujol in Mexico City to Noma in Denmark that got us most excited about eating bugs."

Nowadays, he says, you can find them everywhere from Mixtli in San Antonio (it features seasonal insects) to Safeco Field baseball park in Seattle (try the toasted grasshoppers). "While it may be the novelty that piques the interest, this is no gimmick. As it turns out, bugs are delicious!"

Bret Thorn isn't so sure. "I'm curious to see how far this trend will go. It's already spread more than I expected, but it will be hard to overcome the gross-out factor that most westerners feel about eating bugs."

As in Robin Selden's reaction: "My skin crawls when I think of this…ugggghhh!

 

Image: Shutterstock

 

Classics like hummus, pita and falafel are just the beginning of an Israeli cuisine adventure.

 

6 - Israeli Flavors

Israel is this year's "it" country for food. "The 2017 James Beard Award for Chef of the Year - someone who has had a major influence of the industry - went to Michael Solomonov of Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Philly," says Izabela Wojcik. That's not to mention the Israeli chef Meir Adoni of NUR in New York and what she calls the "global reach and popularity" of Israeli cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi.

"Its acceptance was inevitable," says Linda Burum, "because we’d long been eating 'Mediterranean' food (Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Moroccan, Provençal, even Sicilian) which is what most Israeli food is. The cuisine's most recognizable ingredients like harissa, tahini, feta cheese, pomegranate, sesame seeds, labneh, cumin, baharat seasoning, lamb and savory yogurt sauce are populating all sorts of menus and recipes on cooking blogs," joining the more familiar hummus and falafel, and shakshuka, which was on the trend list two years ago.

Bret Thorn predicts that another condiment popular in Israel, "Skhug [chili-cilantro sauce, sometimes spelled schug] "may well be the Sriracha of 2018."

 

Image: Shutterstock

 

"Bartenders love to tell as good story," says Izabela Wojcik, "and there's nothing more charming than the story of the distillery."

 

7 - Local Distilleries

"We live in a golden age of American distilling," says Mike Thelin. Add to that the growing emphasis on local production, and this is an idea whose time has come.

"It's a great story, and you feel like you are directly supporting a cottage industry," says Izabela Wojcik. "Bartenders love to tell a good story about a drink and there is nothing more charming than the story of the distillery. Plus, they have an opportunity to distinguish themselves with unique flavors and twists."

If the current trend is local and there's also hyper-local. "You can even expect to see in-house distilling in 2018, particularly in hotels," says Bret Thorn.

 

Mad Maven Media

 

Jerk duck wings at International Smoke in San Francisco.

 

8 - Street Food Menus

"Inevitable," proclaims Linda Burum. "Now even Michelin has recognized street food in its Hong Kong guide and two Singapore street-food hawkers have received one star."

Stateside, she continues, "curious chefs are out there looking for inspiration" at food halls and events like Smorgasburg in New York and Los Angeles (serving everything from grilled cheese to fried noodles, French-Vietnamese fusion to tacos on Indian paratha flatbreads), and the Chinese-inspired 626 Night Market in L.A.'s San Gabriel Valley. The results: "You can find it at places like International Smoke in San Francisco, where Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry offer duck wings jerk style and BBQ pork ribs with Cuban mojo."

"People lean towards foods that they have a comfort level with," says Robin Selden, "which is why street food is so popular and easy to eat!"

Bret Thorn is a little more skeptical: "I wish these street food menus were actual street food. They tend to be toned down in flavor and gussied up in presentation, which kind of defeats the purpose of actual street food."

 

Getty Images

 

9 - Vegan Burgers

"There's been a change in meat-free 'meats' in that some of them are finally starting to taste good," says Bret Thorn.

Case in point: "Brands like Impossible Foods are making plant-based burgers lots of fun," says Mike Thelin. And the acclaimed veggie burger at Shouk in Washington, D.C. incorporates chunks of beets, mushrooms, cauliflower, lentils, black beans, onions and more, dresses it with tomato, pickled turnip, arugula, charred onion and tahini instead of mayo (see "Israeli flavors" above).

This is all good news, Thelin says. "There's not enough planet to support our love for meat."

"Can't escape this one, so if you can't beat 'em join 'em," says Robin Selden.

 

Andrew Cebukla / Courtesy of the James Beard Foundation

 

James Beard Foundation Award winner Dan Barber plates his emmer gleanings risotto with dried goat and rice bran at the Taste America benefit dinner in 2016.

 

10 - Zero-Waste Cooking

"The message is out," says Izabela Wojcik. "Food waste is a huge issue, both on principle and also as an environmental plague, and chefs have taken up the cause."

"40 percent of food goes to waste somewhere within the food chain in the United States," says Mike Thelin, "and yet there are still millions who go hungry. Zero-waste cooking exudes not only resourcefulness and creativity, but also an old-world sensibility and respect for food that has been lost."

For example, "Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York City collaborated with other chefs on a series of dinners that creatively used the typically discarded bits of ingredients, such as pickle bottoms and fish bones," Wojcik says. "I'm seeing more chefs and recipe writers make a commitment to this kind of thinking about using all parts of the plant or animal. James Beard Foundation will be publishing a book on this topic in spring 2018."

"The upcycling movement is one that we embrace and use as a challenge to our team of chefs," says Robin Selden. "Some of the best new recipes that we've made in 2017 have come from this challenge. Does wonders with food cost numbers too!"

 

"This is inspiring stuff," Thelin concludes. "We should be teaching this in schools."  

 

(Article featured in Forbes on November 29, 2017)

 

Membership Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal