November 21, 2017

What’s trending on restaurant menus?

Menu trends are a vital consideration for culinary students and chefs alike. They help everyone in the industry understand the constantly shifting popular preferences of customers and track recent developments by leaders in the restaurant world.

Austin culinary arts students can draw on trends throughout their careers to guide their personal development of dishes, whether taking part in the latest fads or avoiding them. Here’s a look at some recently popular ideas:

Umami in the morning

Breakfast dishes tend to lean toward the sweet side, from pancakes to waffles – not to mention French toasts, syrups and pastries. Even the more savory options, like eggs and breakfast proteins, often include a sweet component or a side of something with a more sugary profile. Food Business News said some degree of palate shift is already seen with more savory- and umami-packed dishes in culinary hotspots like New York.

Food Business News cited the rising popularity of jianbing, a decidedly not-sweet breakfast crepe that includes pickled vegetables, hoisin sauce, eggs and herbs, at trendy eateries in the city. Culinary trend predictions from Sterling-Rice Group project the umami push extending into areas where traditional flavors reign supreme, like frozen breakfast foods. It’s possible soy or miso flavors may eventually reach into handheld breakfast sandwiches – food for thought for chefs and students alike.

Fries with toppings, held in hand.Food trends constantly evolve.

Variety is the spice of life

The Houston Press reported on the most recent StarChefs International Chefs Congress, an annual industry event that helps professionals develop skills and learn more about emerging trends. There were plenty of items specifically referenced as increasingly popular during the three-day gathering, ranging from soft-serve ice cream and donuts to injecting some fun into wine programs.

One trend that’s already seen in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., is food halls, which can be seen as an upgrade of the old mall food court concept. Instead of chain restaurants and greasy foods dominating the menus, however, these marketplaces tend to focus on upscale restaurants and offerings.

While many food halls will offer cheeseburgers, sandwiches or fried foods alongside ethnic cuisine and calorie-conscious options, nearly every option involves high-quality ingredients and a more polished presentation. Consider Chicago’s Revival Food Hall and Union Market in Washington.

Chefs can consider how increasing interest in food halls reflects on diverse tastes and a desire to sample multiple cuisines among diners, as well as the potential for their restaurant to take part in such a hall in the future.

Four meals a day

Business Insider shared insights from the most recent Waitrose Food & Drink Report, which predicts food fads for the coming year. Among the prognostications was growing acceptance for more, smaller meals throughout the day, partially as a way to adapt to the growing variance in schedules among the working-age population.

The relative size and importance of meals has changed with the times, and a fourth meal or large snack is already a fact of life for some people. Avid exercisers, shift workers, parents and many others may not focus on three square meals each day as much as getting enough food to meet hunger and nutritional needs by the time they go to bed.

For chefs, this may represent an opportunity to offer smaller plates and snacks to appeal to diners who might not want to cook, but also aren’t looking for a large meal. There are plenty of options to consider, from reducing portion sizes of existing dishes to entirely new offerings.

Keeping pace with industry trends helps you grow as chef, both as a student and after graduation. Make sure you keep the pulse of the industry to tap into effective strategies.