The New Year tends to mean knee-jerk optimism coupled with just the slightest amount of underlying dread. It’s true for the restaurant industry, and it’s true for 2012. Not only is this the prophesied year of our destruction (at least according to the Debbie Downer Mayan calendar), it’s also a definitive year for the industry as a whole, with certain fundamental trends growing, a few fads withering, and industry jobs doing something in between (just ask disappearing pastry chefs).
We expect several trends to blossom in the potentially pre-apocalyptic sunlight of 2012. Some will maintain the economic caution of yesteryear, like small desserts, niche specialties like macarons and soft serve, and the encroachment of deal-driven dining among the culinary upper class. Others will continue the emphasis on creativity that sprang from the ashes of the recession: the chef-driven restaurateur putting creative license in skilled hands and chefs prioritizing creative spaces (à la Chris Ford’s dining-room-turned-culinary-think-tank). The push toward quality-minded efficiency will continue with wine taps and high-grade batched cocktails. And we expect to see more “inward expansion”—the kind of origin-seeking boundary-pushing that will define our 2012 ICC and has chefs looking to historic recipes, equipment, and ingredients for modern inspiration.
So world’s-end aside, we’re optimistic for the New Year—not only because optimism tends to breed more of itself (meaning we can help catalyze the industry), but because we know that even if we’re not out of the woods yet, we’ve learned to live comfortably inside of them. And we’re guessing that a greater emphasis on customer loyalty, from both sides of the equation, will empower an industry that thrives on relationships more than margins.
For our part in the catalyzing equation, we’re launching 2012 with new ambitions, among them a weekly publishing schedule that’s ever-so-slightly easier to follow than it used to be. We’ll have a selection of short, digestible, info-packed weekly features. And in the first Dishrag of the New Year we’re officially announcing the first three: the back-of-house-chow tell-all Inside Staff Meal; the cocktail-focused The Weekly Mix; and ingredient-centric The Product.
And while we won’t be doing a New York Rising Stars this year, we’re diving into exciting markets across the country, with Rising Stars Galas in Austin-San Antonio (February), New Orleans (April), Atlanta (June), and Hawaii (December). So reach out and give us your give us your nominations for any chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists we should check out in those cities. And as always, stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates throughout the year. After all, it may be our last. (In which case, let’s be sure to get a drink beforehand.)
And last but certainly not least, we'd like to take an opportunity to honor a dear departed friend, Sean Hardy. Not only was Sean a chef of Rising Star caliber, he was a warm and wonderful person, an incredible addition to our industry and our lives.