Evidently, food trends are shaping our health. As vegetable recipes replace go-to comfort foods on Pinterest and Instagram for the first time, its clear that our dietary habits are under powerful influence from social media platforms. But should we really be surprised? For chefs and restaurateurs, what should you look out for in 2017?
"You can always tell what the trends are by when the big chains put out their versions" Ed Levine, Chief Executive of seriouseats.com.
Here's five solid trendsetters that will show your customers you have your finger firmly on the pulse throughout the busy months ahead.
1. Crispy Critters
Though an appetizer that is likely to divide opinion, a rise of 600% for the search term 'snack insects' on Google Trends hints that they are finally poised for a breakthrough. There's already a wealth of choices available online from tinned tarantulas to scrumptious scorpions.
Insects have been tipped for a mainstream move for nearly a decade. For those who consider this a fresh concept, references to entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, can be traced way back to biblical times.
With the average bug containing 50 to 75% protein and minimal carbohydrates the critters are an undeniably sustainable and highly nutritious food source. Capitalising on these benefits are popular chef and author Kylie Kwong, overcoming her own fears to include baby crickets and mealworms on the menu at her Sydney restaurant.
Are you offering insect bites at your bar or restaurant? Roasted crickets are a good entry level choice with a rich, nutty flavour and bees also come highly recommended for the rookie. If somehow you don't create a talking point, then you may be the first to introduce clients to the world of edible insects.
2. Vegetables.. again
The difference in 2017 is that visuals are drawing in the consumer and helping them to understand what's in their food. To support this claim, search terms 'simple' and ' made in minutes' have both jumped 39% since last year, creating a direct correlation between comfort food and healthy eating.
Also this year, expect to see more sea vegetables as sides and seasoning such as the dulse seaweed which can add a tang to sauces or stand in for salt as a healthy alternative. Highly enriched with minerals including the lesser-spotted vitamin B12, keeping the nervous system and blood cells healthy are just a couple of health benefits you can guarantee from this submerged superfood.
Depending on the level of exposure to chlorophyll and light, seaweed is generally grouped by colour:
Green: Sea lettuce
Red: Nori, Agar, Dulse, Irish Moss
Brown: Kelp, Lumbu, Arame Hijinki, Wakame, Sea Palm
Long considered a supplement for its nourishment, 'wild' foods such as this have been championed in Asia long before their spot in the limelight, but now it is to establish itself as an ingredient in its own right rather than provide pure sustenance for foraging survivalists of the western world.
3. Dishy Desserts: Freakshakes and crazy toppings
Outlandish, overflowing and infatuated with sweetness, the 'freakshake' has migrated swiftly from the Patissez café in Canberra all over major cities worldwide. Unlike other foods the taste of these creations is not so essential as their appearance and photogeniety. This is just another example of how social media is influencing the food we eat. So what can you do to take advantage of this trend?
Whether making sorbet, gelato yogurt or ice cream you'll need to get yourself a commercial machine, many of which include a built-in freezer, meaning you don't have to pre-freeze the bowl. This gives you the freedom to experiment with flavours and find a unique blend that you can call your own. Why not add some fizz wizz to your selection of toppings?
Described as 'dainty yet feisty' by chefs it can either be pot-grown or established in a pond with free-flowing water for best results. Look out for this revived garnish in soups and salads, or even blitzed up ith a little cream to add colour and depth to sauces.
Echoing the use of garnishes and plant-focused menus is the growth in popularity of 'grazing' style dining which is basically less formal and pricey. Far from comparing diners to livestock, this refers to picking and sampling foods in a group, a modern approach to dining that restaurants are now beginning to cater for. We saw this in 2016 with acai and 'poke' dishes offering more choice in a bowl. In 2017 we'll see more bone broths, African Spices and fresh condiments available to order, such as chilli pepper jam, fenugreek and vegetable salsa. If you're looking to get creative with your garnishing, the 80-piece Vogue set includes everything you need to achieve the perfect presentation.
5. Autonomous food techSince the first appearance of 18th Century automata we’ve been waiting for machines to take on our household chores. Though the 1950s signified the height of this sci-fi obsession, it’s taken a further 65 years for sophisticated robot technology to grace the service industry.
In the final quarter of 2016 Pizza Hut had been trialling a robotic waiter named Pepper in Japan, who verbally interacts with diners, responds to questions about dietary requirements, and monitors customers’ emotions. As even the most basic culinary skills are highly dexterous, (just to walk and talk has taken roboticists a while to master!) our autonomous friends with their inferior pre-programmed behaviour seem resigned to light clerical duties at front of house. Consequently, Mastercard unveiled the first application of their Masterpass digital payment service via a robot in conjunction with Pepper’s trial, hoping to provide consumers with a more memorable and personalised shopping experience. Though perhaps unsuitable as a reliable kitchen hand, how are robots playing a part in the food service industry?
By the end of 2016 JustEat had partnered with Starship Technologies to test 4mph wheeled drones in central London, delivering food to customers in insulated pin code-secured containers. The development of this technology will invariably cross paths with Google’s self-driving car: expected to be ready for purchase in 2020. So for now, it seems only ‘brainless’ unmanned drones and vehicles which are moving in on restaurant delivery jobs. What this means for you is that a potentially cheap, reliable automated delivery service will soon be an option available to your business, but in all likelihood it won’t be Pepper serving your entrees in 2017.
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