The breakout decade of the twenty-first century has ushered in a wave of interesting trends in the restaurant world and beyond. Here we highlight ten powerful trends that have emerged in the last decade that have sculpted the foodie landscape.
1. Gourmet Fast-Food
From gourmet Angus beef burgers to gourmet tacos, french fries and pizzas, the “gourmet” prefix has attached itself to an assortment of fast food offering across the country. In the fine-dining category, burgers jumped nearly 19 percent since 2005 according to data-research company Datassential. Restaurants such as the “Shake Shack” have opened with great success by offering affordable indulgences. Daniel Boloud’s DB Bistro offers a burger with foie gras. It’s all about making the mundane…special.
Between television appearances, best-selling cookbooks, and road trips complete with booking agents, celebrity chefs have reached rock star status. They have their own cable shows, and do live shows that command huge crowds. Some are actual respectable Chefs…others don’t quite fit the bill. Now they even have their own Awards Show rivaling the Oscars: the 2010 “Tasty Awards”. We’re interested to see what Cheflebrities the next decade will turn up.
3. Molecular Gastronomy
Although hatched in the late eighties by Elizabeth Cadry Thomas, a cooking instructor in northern California, the term “Molecular and Physical Gastronomy” was adopted by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist Hervé This who held workshops in Erice, Italy where professional chefs and scientists gathered to discuss a scientific approach to the preparation of food. The concept really took off around the turn of the century thanks to chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Grant Achatz, Pierre Gagnaire, Ferran Adrià, Jose Andres, Homaro Cantu, Wylie Dufresne, Sat Bains, Sean Wilkinson, and Richard Blais among many others. Restaurants known for their molecular cooking in New York are L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Tailor, and wd~50, Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant in central London, and El Bulli, the quaint restaurant on the Spanish Costa Brava.
4. Death of Nouvelle Cuisine Portions
Nouvelle Cuisine took off in the eighties and was characterized by petite servings with an emphasis on presentation. The end of this century, marked by a great economic downturn has led to a change in what consumers want. Diners are now looking for value for their dollar and this requires larger portions. Nouvelle cuisine’s smaller portions faded in the last decade but the cuisine style remained and was basically renamed. Nouvelle cuisine is now haute cuisine.
5. Social Media and Catering Trucks
From New York to Los Angeles, these street wagons have become the latest Foodie craze serving high-end fast food to taste savvy consumers. Users of such sites as Twitter, Facebook and FriendsEAT can keep up with their favorite trucks to find out their daily location as well as specials. Catering companies like Los Angeles based Kogi BBQ combined the use of Twitter as a real time marketing and promotional tool and Internet based bulletin to “Tweet” customers with the latest menu items and truck locations.
6. Organic Menu Items
Fritz Haeg’s “Edible Estates”, was launched in 2005. More and more homeowners are surrendering their manicured lawns and replacing them with aesthetic organic gardens. The Edible Estates concept is basically a recycled spin on the “Victory Gardens” of the 1940’s. Organic gardening is America’s new pastime once again, and has spawned a consumer demand for organic menu items in restaurants from organic beef to vegetables. Restaurants quickly adapted and answered the call. Counter in NYC serves up organic, vegetarian cuisine. Los Angeles’ Planet Raw goes a step further to offer not merely organic, but raw cuisine as well.
7. Exotic Cocktails
As Antonio pointed out last October, “When thinking of vodka one must take into account that it goes beyond neutral vodka; there’s lemon, apple, peach, pomegranate, bubble gum, espresso and even bacon flavored vodka.” Drinking flavored cocktails became a trend among newcomers to the bar scene this decade with garnishes like marinated capers, fresh herbs, or olives stuffed with blue cheese, anchovies, pickled mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.
8. Farm-to-Table Movement
One of the hottest trends of the decade is the farm-to-table movement. Chefs in restaurants across the country plan their menus for the day by sourcing vegetables and meats from local farmers or farmer’s markets. Coeur de Jardin, a Parisian outdoor restaurant at the Plaza Athenee Hotel in Paris, has placed an organic vegetable garden in the middle of the courtyard and showcases tomatoes, peas, courgettes, pumpkins, Jerusalem artichokes, beetroot, borage, sage, pansies, and begonias. The organic vegetables from the garden go straight to your table.
9. The Rise of Foodertainment
The Food Network is seen in more than ninety million households and was launched first internationally in the UK in 2009. Although the Network was founded in 1993, the network’s popularity exploded this decade and popularized chefs like Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse who are currently hounded by the paparazzi. Alton Brown gained a cult following for his Good Eats show. Food Network’s competitor, the Travel Channel stepped up to the plate by adopting Anthony Bourdain formerly of Les Halles and world traveler extraordinaire who explores the culinary cultures of the world. It will be interesting to see what current working Chefs will be launched into the spotlight in the future.
10. Fusion Cuisine
Fusion cuisine combines the cuisine of a region or sub-region into one eating experience. Asian fusion restaurants became popular in the U.S. and feature Indian, East Asian, and South-East Asian dishes alongside one another. Pierre Gagnaire was at the cutting edge of the fusion movement, and began his career in St. Etienne where he won three Michelin Stars. Pierre Gagnaire has been acclaimed for his restaurants in Paris, London, Tokyo, Dubai and his namesake restaurant, “Pierre” at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
Kelly Smith Killian, Editor-in-Chief of Restaurants and Institutions makes reference to a comment in an article in the Jan. 1, 2000, issue of Restaurants & Institutions. “At the start of the new millennium, quality will be equated with convenience, value, organic ingredients, well-prepared dishes, the perception of healthy and fresh food and a satisfying overall dining experience.”
“That statement,” says Killian, “could just as easily define the industry today, only now these ideas are no longer predictions but themes across all kinds of operations.”