Many of last year’s major culinary trends were responses to the big bad economic wolf. It was a year of comfort food; DIY; mobile restaurant concepts (how better to flee angry investors?); tech-savvy, in-house PR; and marquee star mixology programs—the profit margin lifesaver of struggling operations. And we’ve seen growth within those trends. Social media outlets continue to diversify communication between chef, purveyor, and diner; the Asian concept restaurants of 2009 are evolving, with hopeful franchises like Sensebowl and concept-driven spots like Bill Kim’s communal urbanbelly; and house-made, hands-on, bare-knuckle prep (e.g., 2009’s ubiquitous canning and pickling) has transitioned from the professional kitchen to consumer shelves, courtesy of gourmet retail.
Strong as those veins of ingenuity are, this year in food was not a reaction to the recession. The culinary trends of 2010 illustrate what the industry learned about itself through the lens of necessity—from ingredients and service to the fundamentals and fantastical. We’ve seen locavore and DIY values progress toward high-concept naturalism, with a strong emphasis on terroir. We’ve watched as comfort food, culinary darling of the recession, morphed into a more distinctive, ambitious expression of soul and local character. We’ve seen mixologists marry doggedly authentic cocktail puritanism with sleek, next generation technologies, shedding the skins (and costumes) of hospitality-historicism for a more idiosyncratic bar menu. And we’ve witnessed the sphere of industry influence expand, from the cuisine on the plate to the welfare of a school, an environment, and even a nation.
2010 was a year of rededicated focus and renewed freedoms. And it wasn’t because of any magically resuscitated financial health. It was because the industry learned to trust itself, its strengths, and its special influence in the (ever-so-slightly tattered) fabric of modern culture. Here’s a recap of the outstanding culinary trends of 2010.
Click here to view a printable version ot the 2010 Culinary Trends Report.
Emphatic expression of nature and location doesn’t stop with ingredients. This year we’ve seen conceptually natural platings from Portland to Korea—distinct and sometimes earnestly poetic visual odes to terroir. Royal Mail’s Dan Hunter—a star among the Australian avant-garde—crafts an elegant bird’s nest with his Egg Yolk, Toasted Rye, Legumes, and Yeast; his Lamb, Eggplant in White Miso, Pine Nut, and Chlorophyll is like a verdant, moss-covered forest floor. Chef Young Hee Rooh of Poom Seoul (South Korea) serves Songi Boesoet pine mushrooms with graceful minimalism, simply prepared and snow white on a bed of pine needles. At L’Air du Temps (Belgium), Sang Hoon Degeimbre’s Nature drapes long, thick ribbons of snow-white daikon over a stone-like hazelnut sponge, with meandering curls of carrot and mounds of dark olive soil strewn with flowers and herbs. At Henri (CHI) Dirk Flanigan’s Consommé of Game with Stones, Leaves, and Autumn Flavors (inspired by a walk with his daughter) resembles a mountaintop tidal pool. And at Castagna (OR), Matt Lightner’s Morels with Foraged Vegetables are served on a simple wooden plank—a common feature of naturalist plating—a gorgeous tumble of morels with lush green lettuces hiding a surprise of duck egg.