by Egyptian Chef's Association
The restaurant industry is sensitive to the needs of its clients and is watching popular trends. It reacts by creating dishes and menus that meet the needs of their consumers. Taste is subject to change. Chefs are the people nearest to the dining public. They listen, observe and react to the trend as dictated by the choices people make.
Chefs are practitioners par excellence in the sphere of culinary activity and theory. These pioneers initiated changes long before journalists had found names for them.
Many of the hottest trends listed below grew out of everyday practice and as a result of a shift in the chefs’ awareness regarding their profession.
Look carefully at the predicted latest trends. They target one central concern – sustainability. This encompasses the need for a more holistic approach to all the decisions related to food: to selecting the different ingredients with an emphasis on freshness, to sourcing such items locally and to wise planning that avoids excess and includes measures for dealing with the leftovers in a manner that is compatible with the needs of others and of the environment. These are big issues but underlying the objectives is the belief that we can sustain the environment and the people who share it.
Then, What are the hottest trends?
1. Hyper local sourcing: Sourcing local produce is a growing and powerful trend. For Egyptian chefs this may have grown out of necessity but it has now become a huge plus with a public that prefers home grown produce.
Egypt is fortunate in having a thriving agricultural sector. It has reacted promptly to demand from the local and the export market for quality products. It is not surprising that local producers find such a ready outlet in these two markets as both have the same priority – to find and use excellent produce in their industry.
In addition to meeting the demand for basic vegetables, the agricultural sector is now growing special ingredients that were formally imported at great expense from Europe. Two sectors have thus benefitted – the producers and the hotel and restaurant operators. The producers have a larger and steady market while the oprators in the hospitality business by using local products have reduced their costs. This is a truly win-win situation.
2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts: Fast food which started as a trend has lost its novelty and to many of today’s diners it has also lost its relevance to their life-style. The term is being redefined by chefs wishing to serve a new public.
People’s need for fast food has been overtaken by their wish for food containing healthy ingredients and for dishes that reflect local cuisine. ‘One size fits all’ no longer works. Local vendors have got the message – Egyptians want to taste and experience a product from their own cultural heritage.
Diners care what is in their food and are concerned with the quality and provenance of the ingredients. By reacting positively to these demands, Chefs everywhere have given this sector of the food industry a new lease of life.
3. Natural ingredients/clean menus: Chefs continue to pay more attention to the quality and provenance of the raw ingredients they use. They’re focusing on minimally processed items, and serving a larger variety of natural, whole foods that are healthful and great tasting.
4. Environmental sustainability: This is one of the buzz words of the 21st century. Heightened public awareness of the environment now extends to people’s eating habits. They want to know how and where the food was grown and what will happen to the leftovers or waste that is produced. They want food outlets to buy their produce locally, to act responsibly and to recycle waste food. Chefs who meet these expectations are rewarded by customer loyalty and a sense of personal satisfaction that they have helped save the environment.
Diners want to feel good about the food they eat which is why they often choose where to go and what dishes to buy. This concern for the environment is spreading worldwide and encouraging providers in the food industry to change their usual practices so as to satisfy the expectations and keep the loyalty of their customers.
5. Locally sourced produce: Chefs have noticed that customers are giving greater attention to the taste and quality of what they eat. In this case - it pays to satisfy the customer! Many enterprising chefs have capitalized on this growing appetite for locally sourced fruit and vegetables by looking for farmers and small-holders capable of supplying these items. Chefs too are always searching for unusual and creative ways of making new dishes to attract and please their clientele.
6. Locally sourced meat & seafood: Chefs prefer their protein fresh and locally raised. This means making contact with local farmers and fishermen so as to ensure good quality products in quantities that satisfy demand. By sourcing from local producers chefs are capitalizing on local varieties and generating business for these entrepreneurs. Diners benefit by enjoying food that they might not otherwise eat while chefs are able to devise a new culinary repertoire that appeals to the national palate.
7. Food waste reduction: This trend is gaining ground throughout the hospitality industry. Restaurants and hotels are looking to reduce the amount of waste for both economic and ecological reasons. It makes solid economic sense to serve smaller portions and to donate unused food to those in need. By careful planning and ordering, the amount of food purchased is reduced and so is the waste. Whatever has to be thrown away can be recycled as compost and thus provide a valuable and organic source of fertilizer and soil nutrition.
8. Meal kits: This is a new concept but a rapidly growing trend. Meal kits are packages of carefully planned and prepared meals that bridge the gap between takeaway cuisine and a meal that is thrown together quickly at home. The aim of the kit is to produce a quality meal that combines variety, simplicity and deliciousness. The trend started in 2012 but is growing and has stimulated innovation in conventional restaurant menus. There is little doubt that it will challenge old notions of the takeaway.
9. Simplicity to basics: This trend is reminding us that we belong to a long culinary tradition in which different ideas and practices were the order of the day. When we look back we recognize that chefs in those times used simpler methods and had less complicated recipes. These may have been temporarily displaced by new trends but the tendency now is to recapture the past for a new and upcoming generation.
This trend is already apparent in Egypt where traditional cuisine is making a come-back in trendy restaurants patronized by young millenials.
10. Nutrition: This trend is one with great potential to change people’s attitude to the food they eat and the life-style they follow.
People nowadays are more aware of their personal health. Exercise has become a huge industry and good nutrition is regarded as vital to a person’s well-being and general health.
What is healthy eating? In some diets there is too much sugar and not enough grains or low carbohydrate ingredients. Many individuals are now asking what is suitable for them personally. In some cases they question what is good for their growing children.
People are also realizing that the nutritional needs of young people are different to those of mature adults. This should alert all those in the food industry who wish to create dishes that cater to the needs of these different groups.