November 28, 2017

With a healthy economy and an active foodie culture propelling restaurants into 2018, owners, managers and chefs are in for a potentially lucrative year.

For culinary students benchmarking their skills and knowledge against those of top chefs, there are several key trends to keep in mind. Landing a new gig, expanding your professional network and honing your craft may all rest upon how well you implement some of these common practices.

Take a look:

Southeast Asian island cuisine

The Far East is coming west. At least that’s what many menus are showing.

Though street vendors have long peddled foods from Singapore and Indonesia, to name a few, they were mostly presented in an open-market, outdoor setting. In 2018, those dishes will be brought under the roof of top restaurants and featured as prominent dining options.

Kaffir, bagoong and laksa will likely become more common.

Plant-based menus

Plants are no longer just side dishes or the items left behind on plates. Many restaurants are making fruits, vegetables and grains the focal points of their entrees.

This could be a transformative change in culinary schooling, as chefs will need to be much more versatile with their meatless culinary skills.

Reducing food waste

The U.S. is a notoriously wasteful country in terms of food. Chef want to change that.

Reusing or repurposing ingredients is an art form in itself, and restaurateurs want to make sure the food they’re ordering is returning profit on each investment. Instead of serving broccoli florets (and throwing the stems in the garbage), serve the entire vegetable or use the stems for soups and stews, for instance.

This kind of thriftiness is economical in many ways.

More color

Food is photographed more than ever, so presentation matters. Chefs are taking this to heart in the Instagram-centric world in which we now live. This means, in some cases, using food dyes in toppings, dressings and desserts, but more often, chefs are incorporating flowers into the mix.

Bright yellows, oranges, pinks and whites bring a different dimension to any dish, and floral arrangements can sometimes be eaten as part of the meal or removed once the initial presentation is over.

Roses, lavender, hibiscus and elderflowers are currently trending in many marketplaces.

Fine-casual dining

We all know the monikers, but “fine-casual” is a new-ish one.

Think of the best components of a counter-service establishment paired with the atmosphere and curation of a more traditional dining experience: That’s fine-casual.
In many instances this means diners order food from a single, large menu at a counter, or even in a buffet style, then find a table to sit. Then, servers offer drink/wine menus, appetizers and recommendations for pairings while the food is cooked.

All in all, diners get the price, experience and service they want.

Gut-friendly menus

Chefs are accustomed to updating their offerings to accommodate diners who eschew meat, dairy or gluten. But in 2018, there will likely be a significant push to see more meals that won’t negatively impact gut health.

Many spices, seeds and high-intensity ingredients are inflammatory, which makes it difficult for some people to properly digest or even enjoy their meals without suffering consequences. But more chefs are including probiotics, turmeric and flaxseed into their spices and sauces, all of which improve digestion.

Additionally, chefs are opting for complex, tangy ingredients rather than straight spice like peppers. This shift opens menus up to more health-conscious patrons.

And there you have it. There are plenty of more trends to be mindful of, and, as you know, these things tend to change rapidly without notice.

Be observant of other styles, examine how other cultures experiment with food and leverage your own favorite practices for greater success in 2018.