- Author: Emily Crowe
- Categories: Trends and Statistics; Food Trends; Market Trends; Menu Trends
- Source: Specialty Food News
- Tags: award; vegetable
When it comes to food and flavor trends, there is no better place to look for inspiration than the menus of culinary savants and restaurants vying for a coveted James Beard Award. Chris Koetke, chef and vice president of the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College in Chicago, scoured the menus of this year’s nominees and gathered a list of burgeoning trends that he expects to make a mark on the food industry.
Chief among the ingredient trendsetters this year is cauliflower. Once a boring steamed side dish or necessary addition to a crudité plate, cauliflower has made it to the mainstream in a big way. “Cauliflower is the new Brussels sprouts,” Koetke says. “What I’m seeing now is [that it is] the next new thing in the cruciferous vegetable family.”
Cauliflower has moved beyond being a small mention in a menu description and is now being used in new and inventive ways, from a pickled side dish to a curried, roasted, or smoked main course. “Chefs have rediscovered this thing that has been sitting out there for a long time,” Koetke explains. “What they’ve discovered is it’s a great vehicle for doing all kinds of stuff.”
Shaya, an Israeli-inspired restaurant in New Orleans and this year’s James Beard winner for Best New Restaurant, serves cauliflower several ways, including as a pickled appetizer and curried and fried as a main dish. Launderette, one of the Best New Restaurant nominees located in Austin, Texas, serves a roasted cauliflower main dish with pickled pear, sunchoke, and mustard vinaigrette.
The Jersualem artichoke, or sunchoke as it is more commonly known, is another item that has been popping up on menus across the U.S. “I’ve been seeing them on menus a little bit here, a little bit there,” Koetke says, “but I’ve just been seeing them a lot more. Chefs are seeing sunchokes as something fun and different.”
While bread is a mainstay on any restaurant menu, sourdough, pumpernickel, and rye breads are being used in new and sometimes unexpected ways. Atlanta’s Staplehouse, another Best New Restaurant nominee, has featured sourdough dumplings, while Launderette serves a pastrami sandwich on rye bread.
One of the most interesting things about all of these trendsetting ingredients, Koetke believes, is that they’re all incredibly versatile. “They’re a blank canvas,” he says. “There’s so much that can be done with them that it really gives an opportunity for incredible creativity.”
On a global scale, Middle Eastern flavors continue to inspire menus at many James Beard-nominated restaurants, with items such as Aleppo peppers and even unique variations of hummus making waves. What Koetke has dubbed as borderless cuisine is also shining new light on seemingly unconventional flavor pairings.
Rising Star Chef nominee Angela Dimayuga of New York City’s Mission Chinese Food is throwing out all of the rules when it comes to typical Chinese cuisine. The restaurant serves a winter melon dish with ham and black truffle broth en croute, as well as a tray of sea urchin served with squid ink naan.
“Any ingredient anywhere in the world is part of my painter’s pallet as a chef,” Koetke says. This borderless cuisine is a prime example of using eclectic ingredients from traditions throughout the world to create standout dishes. “The world is your oyster,” Koetke muses, “go for it.”