Food has become competitive, and successful modern chefs take new trends into account, not only adopting them but also leading customers to better health, enjoyment of exciting fusion cuisines, and greater convenience. Keeping abreast of changes in the food industry might involve taking refresher courses or an occasional class or workshop to update a chef’s skills and knowledge of changing trends.
Event Catering Makes Harsh Demands
Food plays a central role in any event or corporate meeting, and organizers that get the menu wrong risk severe reactions from delegates who often allow food quality to decide how successful they view any event, regardless of content, place or conference structure. Conference venues also take these matters with great seriousness, considering nutrition, sustainability, and local sourcing as key criteria. Restaurants and meeting venues offer artisan bakery products to add cutting-edge sophistication to their menus.
Successful catering operations, regardless of whether offered by restaurants or dedicated caterers, must keep current with new techniques and consumers’ preferences to satisfy increasing public awareness of nutritional issues. The vast amount of nutritional information available online, in news broadcasts, magazines, and from celebrity chefs has persuaded discerning clientele to ask a great many questions and demand menu input when their reputations depend on meal success and delegate approvals.
- Event planners now ask for more food choices to satisfy vegetarians, vegans, and people with dietary restrictions.
- Catering used to offer limited meal selections for meetings and conferences prepared in assembly line fashion, but attendees and organizers now ask for organic foods and local meat and produce.
- Consumers want fewer ingredients without preservatives, expertly prepared with minimal cooking to keep the nutrients. The rare exception centers on barbecue, which people want slowly smoked to create depth of flavor.
- People want to know that fisherman caught their tuna with respect for dolphins, sea bass by line fishing, and their cod with sustainable foresight.
Trends in Dining
The major trends that chefs find among consumers include wanting sustainability, free-range meats, and local produce. Heirloom produce has become so overused that it begins to lack meaning, and not every misshapen tomato qualifies. Special meals that meet the needs of people with dietary restrictions have become more important than the numbers would show. Groups of diners make choices where to dine, so that all group members can enjoy their meals.
Fusion cuisines have melded the flavors of traditional cuisines with available local produce to create exciting blends that diners enjoy. Some of the hottest trends include the following foods and preparation techniques.
- Concerned with weight and health, consumers seek food that prevents diseases, fights aging, and contributes to digestive regularity.
- The days of skyscraper architecture on plates have given way to long, flat lines on plates, decorated with geometric garnishes.
- Hot foods and spices have become enormously popular.
- Round appetizers that pop in the mouth offer contrasting flavors and textures. Examples include spherical falafel, stuffed meatballs, fried goat-cheese balls, risotto croquettes, and other dishes that chefs offer with multiethnic sauces.
- Smaller portions please guests and allow restaurants to make larger profits.
- Many consumers want to see breakfast foods available anytime of the day. People work different shifts, and diners want to order breakfast day and night.
- Fresh fruit and vegetable-based desserts that cut sugar have become very popular. The staple carrot cake must now share the dessert cart with other creative concoctions.
- Food trucks have pioneered eccentric foods that gain loyal followings. Using the social media, specialty foods can find their audience anywhere in the world.
- Korean foods have hit the trendy circuit with a vengeance, thanks to food trucks and exciting Korea Town restaurants in Manhattan near the Empire State Building. Korean-fried chicken, kimchi, bibimbap, kalbi, and bulgogi have created remarkable excitement over ethnic flavors unknown to most Westerners.
- Artisan breads have staged a comeback, despite carb counting and diets that restrict bread. Diners want bread on the table without asking.
- At the same time, restaurants must accommodate people who have coeliac disease, who have an allergic reaction to gluten.
- People expect high-tech service from their restaurants. Managers and chefs must learn to engage social media and publish menus and daily specials that people can get directly on their mobile devices.
Food Sophistication Offers Good News for Chefs
Chefs that keep up with consumer food trends and offer the latest healthy and ethnic cuisines stand to profit from greater consumer interest in food. The media and Internet access have made the world smaller, and people learn about other cultures and foods and want to try them. Regional fusions make unique and exotic dishes that draw raves from customers. Diners eat out more often due to the demands of work, and they want to avoid shopping, cooking and cleanup at home. Knowledgeable chefs learn about new trends, cuisines, and marketing techniques to attract customers and increase the demand for their skills.