Chefs Convene to Discuss Food Trends
Chefs from across the country recently convened for three days of networking, chef demonstrations, and talking trends at the eighth annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress in New York City.
Under the banner of “Guts and Glory, Leaving It All on the Line,” more than 3,000 participants gathered at Pier 57 to taste, learn, and discover new technology, cooking methods, and equipment.
“The biggest reason chefs come is to learn, connect with their peers, and stay on top of trends,” says Antoinette Bruno, editor in chief and chief executive of StarChefs.com.
Several trends were front and center at the Congress, which brought together suppliers, chefs, and industry insiders.
“There is a great buzz and dynamic here,” says Mary Humann, an industry consultant and president of The Humann Factor. “The show brings in a lot of chefs who are really interested in new products.
In her opening remarks Bruno outlined proprietary research from the 2013 Culinary Trends Report, detailing five areas that are trending across the industry.
“In the New Food Dream, chefs can ply their skills in any context, globally, regionally, rurally, casually, in retail, or even roadside shacks,” says Bruno. “Fine dining is no longer the final frontier. Success exists now in any incarnation you can dream up.”
Other trends Bruno elaborated on include the proliferation of smoking and barbecue, the globalization of the culinary community, boundary-breaking pastry chefs, and the über beverage professional, where a thriving cocktail movement isn’t about the next trend but rather “It’s about the next business model. Bartenders have developed spirit and drink-centric bars; they’re exploring historic eras; they’re spinning into the centrifuge-future.”
“Cocktails are becoming unbelievably complex,” says attendee Joshua Rosen, chef owner of Charm School Chocolates in Baltimore. “A lot of former chefs are venturing from food into drink and they are more intensely focused on ingredients, looking for the best of the best.”
Melissa Kelly, an award-winning chef with restaurants in Maine, Florida, and Arizona, says she has noticed there is action afoot when it comes to desserts. “I am noticing a lot more savory ingredients with desserts, things like herbal infusions and spicy ingredients. There is so much more creativity in those areas.”
Kenny Magana, a research and development chef for Sweet Streets, agrees. “Pastry chefs are really becoming trendsetters with the combinations of sweet and savory. That is where the pastry world wants to go.”
A variety of chef demos ranging from Building a Cocktail Legacy to Performance Art and Pastry Imagination took main stage amidst tastings at vendor booths and pop-up restaurants onsite from such popular suppliers as Australian Beef.
“Whether you’re talking about something as seemingly simple and unlikely as juicing, or defining your role in an unpredictable economic climate, there is one underlying theme here: Guts,” Bruno told attendees.
“The guts to follow through on your vision, to attempt a new flavor, trade the old ways in or, emphatically champion them. It’s about pushing ahead.”
Attendee Carly DeFilippo, social media and content manager for the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, says chefs are no longer cooking in a bubble. “Chefs are showing more respect for cultures, communications, farmers, and food production. They are becoming more curious and are continuing to educate themselves across a wide range of disciplines. They are showing less ego and more humility.”
The farm-to-table movement, which has been gaining traction for years, is now countrywide and mainstream, even in Hawaii where much of the product needs to be brought in.
“Everything is seat to table, ranch to table, farm to table,” says D.K. Kodama, chef owner of DK Restaurants in Oahu, Hawaii. “In Hawaii we can only produce about 20 percent locally because the farms are so small. It is hard for us to keep up with demand because we have a large population and tourist trade.”
Alexandra Moskovitz, marketing director for the Epicurean Group, a New York–based company with four independent restaurants, says she is seeing more vegetarian and gluten-free options.
“A lot of people are going market fresh, seasonal, and local, and you are seeing a lot more vegetarian tasting menus and gluten-free dishes,” she says. “I also notice a lot of focus on Mediterranean cuisine.”
Michael Deihl, executive chef at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and regional vice president of the American Culinary Federation, says there is no question that chefs are going to where the food originates. “Many chefs are curing their own food and using 100 percent of the animals. There is no question that we are going back to where the food originated,” he says. “Chefs are taking that philosophy and adding modern techniques, technology, equipment, entrepreneurial spirit, and a quest to push the envelope. We are at a unique time in our country with the love of local cuisine.
“Awesome, natural, and great food is not a trend. It’s a staple and a foundation builder. It is our local movement that takes us back to our roots.”
By Ellen Koteff