HYPER LOCAVORE: Chefs Take Arms
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.
Chefs aren’t just carrying baskets in the woods. Some of them are actually packing heat. The ultra-DIY chef of 2010 is hunting for sport, education, and even menu development—though rarely for professional use, given strict USDA regulations on hunted game. Beyond the adrenaline rush, which many chefs just plain chemically require, hunting brings gravitas back to the handling of proteins—a gravitas often lost in the context of massive deliveries. And chefs like Thomas McNaughton of flour + water are capitalizing on this reaction, using hunting as a professional and ethical education for kitchen staff. Patrick Morrow of Bluegrass Tavern (MD) hunts exclusively for private parties, although many of the flavor profiles and improvisations of the day’s catch (venison tartare, anyone?) find their way onto his menu. And chefs internationally are banding together in groups like Cook it Raw, whose excursions include hunting, camping, and cooking in the extreme territories of the world.