Frivolous culinary trends don't last long, but these five trends of 2008 make good sense and may be around for a while. These trends share a 'less is more' theme as restaurant owners and culinary schools creatively respond to Americans' quest for health, simplicity, and moderation along with good food and drink.
- Slimming Down Portion Size
"A survey of more than 1,000 professional chefs, members of the American Culinary Federation, found that small is big on menus, as bite-size desserts and small plates/tapas/mezze top the list of hot trends," reports the National Restaurant Association. Some restaurants no longer even offer large entre items. This portion-slimming trend pleases both calorie-conscious and price-conscious customers.
- Each Niche Meets a Need
Specialized restaurants are all the rage as 'less is more' takes hold in cities of all sizes. People hungry for a particular food--ceviche, tapas, steak, kebabs, cheese, dessert, or anything chocolate--can find a niche restaurant that serves exactly that and little else.
- Developing a Culinary Conscience
"The trend I see as the fastest growing going into 2008 is the alternative-source ingredients: local produce, organics, sustainable seafood, grass-fed and free-range items," says John Kinsella, president of the American Culinary Federation, in a National Restaurant Association report. The dining public is also demanding more organic food of known origin.
- Sommeliers Guide Your Taste
Culinary school graduates with specialized wine and beverage knowledge are uniquely positioned to help restaurants satisfy customers' growing desires to develop discerning palates. Trends include small samplings or tastes of alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, and tequila are the most popular), wine and beer sommeliers, and menu pairings of wine and beer with food items.
- For the Kids: Fewer Chicken Fingers, More Sushi?
Kids' cookbooks and cooking classes, as well as kid-chef competitions on TV, have created a generation of adventuresome young eaters. These children are more likely to order what they want from the regular menu, and the more conventional food items on the 'kids' menu' are going the way of the three-martini lunch.