What will we eat this year?
Chef's Corner takes a look at the food trends – current and expected this year.
by Egyptian Chef's Association
Many will come as a complete surprise. Others will look familiar but have a strange and wonderful new appearance. Both trends are a tribute to human inventiveness and a wish to transform and enrich our culinary culture.
Trending – what does it signify?
Many culinary entrepreneurs are looking to capture a bigger share of the hospitality business. They realize that to do so they should be more adventurous in their product development. This entails introducing new concepts and making foods that appeal to the wish of consumers for novelty and variety.
Diners are no longer passive consumers. Matters such as food safety and the necessities of a healthy diet play an important role in their choice of food and help decide where they will dine. Any development strategy must respect such concerns and react imaginatively.
Let’s begin with the trendy innovations.
Bizarre but beautiful
How about a burger that looks and tastes like a meat burger but is entirely vegetable-based? Many consumers can’t tell the difference. This is not a gimmick to save money but a way of capitalizing on the benefits that come with eating vegetables. Meat used to be the prime source of protein but slowly consumers are learning that plant-based proteins like chickpeas, broccoli and Portobello mushrooms are healthier options and not as demanding on the environment.
Plant-based protein is a growing trend. More and more chefs are embracing ingredients such as tofu, tempeh and quinoa. Veganism is on the rise. Restaurants will take dishes back to their plant-based roots but do this with originality and with an eye on mass appeal. In other words there'll be more meat-free days in 2019.
Mushrooms are mushrooming
Other changes will surely occur in 2019 that may surprise and delight us. For example, mushrooms, once taken for granted, are enjoying a new reputation.
Ever heard of mushroom coffee or of a mushroom latte? Apparently it can give you the same effect without the nerves and anxiety caused by a high octane conventional coffee. There is an element of Arabica coffee in the mix but this is blended with fungi which are said to boost metabolism and improve brain power. Expect to encounter mushrooms elsewhere – in your smoothies and teas as well as in body-care products.
What may have passed as ordinary has acquired a new prominence. Expect 2019 to be the year of fragrances. Perhaps you have already enjoyed fragrant floral flavors in fruit based cocktails. Several vendors are predicting that drinks will have a touch of lavender, hibiscus, rose, and especially elderflower.
Floral flavors will also be infused into sparkly drinks. Flowers have been promoted from being decorative items to being an exotic element that enhances flavor in drinks and food.
Re-engineering the staples
And what’s new when we consider the mainstays of our everyday diet– sugar, tea and bread?
Alternatives for the "White Poison"
People have become aware of the hazards of eating too much sugar and are searching for sweeteners that have a lower glycemic impact, fewer added-sugar calories and intriguing sweet flavors.
For example there are syrups made from dates. Savory soups such as pumpkin and tomato are expected to be an easy swap for those seeking to reduce sugar in their diet
Given that tea plays such a central role in hospitality, it is a prime candidate for imaginative development.
Tea ‘bars’ promoting different kinds of herbal tea are increasing rapidly because they offer the public a wide choice of differently flavored teas that are preferable to coffee and alcoholic drinks.
Some are predicting that 2019 will be the year that tea outpaces coffee as the favorite non-alcoholic beverage. People are beginning to think of tea with the same reverence as coffee for its many varieties.
As for bread: there has been a slow and silent revolution which has witnessed new methods and ingredients incorporated into a traditional craft.
Bakers are using local grains milled the day before baking and using proteins and vegetables to create truly delicious products. They are incorporating long proofing times and re-inventing what ‘good bread’ means.
This tendency to pioneer new recipes is likely to accelerate in the coming years.
And the snack? The most popular one – potato chips - has already been subject to methods of processing that refine the final product.
It seems that we must expect snacks that will be healthier and more vegetarian in content.
In the coming year the trend we will be to make snacks containing star root veggies as a main ingredient.
Eating Well & Brain Power
It has not escaped your attention that we are all becoming more concerned with matters that affect our health. Research has shown that our gut health is directly linked to our overall brain function. This insight is especially relevant to medical concerns and the wish to decrease cancer and mitigate Alzheimer’s disease. According to one prediction there will be an increased interest in fermented foods. Fermenting, pickling and preserving will reach the mainstream as gut health becomes a big food trend for 2019. This includes probiotics like kimchi, miso, and also probiotics like onions, garlic and other alliums.
What am I eating?
An obvious trend among consumers is an increasing need to know where food comes from and how it is made. They demand greater transparency or food traceability. People scrutinize labels on food more closely especially when it concerns meat as they are worried about the use of hormones in its production. Consumers are demanding more than ever to know how their pantry staples are grown, raised, and manufactured.
‘Farm to table menus’ are a great attraction and will continue to be so with consumers who take a critical interest in their food. They want to raise the bar of quality and make producers accountable to the ordinary consumer. This trend is having a noticeable impact on many communities which are opting for local sourcing. They are using foods grown within walking distance of the dinner table. This trend has had a remarkable effect on some restaurants which have chosen to grow their own ingredients on-site.
The restaurant business has many concerns that may not be obvious at the dining table but affect the efficiency and environmental impact of the industry. There is a growing emphasis on reducing waste and this will grow in 2019. We must expect to start seeing dishes made from food waste or menus that are composed so as to use all parts of the ingredients.
Broccoli stems and watermelon rinds are often thrown in the trash but now using these less-commonly eaten produce parts is totally trendy. Chefs will be getting creative with root-to-stem cooking and cutting back on food waste in the process.
Trending with tradition
The fast changing culinary world might excite some but unnerve others. There are people who want to stick with what they know and trust; this means we must expect a renewed popular demand for traditional and well-loved dishes. These are termed ‘comfort foods’ and vary from country to country.
So what is possible in the Middle East? The answer is obvious – a return to foods that are deeply rooted in the culture and are part of everyday life. This is not a signal indicating a preference for isolation but rather a renewed affirmation in wholesome food. Besides, many Middle Eastern dishes now enjoy an international reputation and are favored by diners throughout the world.
Dinners are hoping for more than old favorites such as hummus, pita and falafel. They want a feast from the Middle East and to discover other regional dishes. Leading chefs are predicting a rise in a number of ingredients to satisfy their appetite. Prepare to be delighted and surprised by the creativity of these chefs.
Today’s public is well informed and knowledgeable. This alone is one of the most important trends in modern culinary development and may well determine the future of the industry.