In 2014, expect menus to feature much more sophisticated and adventurous fare, while maintaining a healthy and ethical balance. Also look for bold flavours from around the world, especially the Middle East. Consumers will still be looking for healthier food options featuring more locally-sourced fruits and vegetables.
Beverages will also be a big focus this year. Mixologists will be the new hot chefs of the year, as creative cocktails using fresh ingredients take over on drink menus.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, believes the following trends will be hot for 2014:
Eating clean and eating green
Healthy, green, eco-friendly, sustainable restaurants are now considered mainstream as almost all restaurant and foodservice operations now cater to vegetarians, vegans, Paleo dieters, diabetics, gluten-free, sugar-free, lactose-free and other food restrictions. There will also be heavy focus on clean eating – eating foods in their most natural, whole state, without any artificial flavours, chemicals or preservatives.
Every year, a different region of the world features heavily. 2014 is the year of Middle Eastern flavours. With the influx of immigrants coming from the Middle East, North Americans will be seeing a huge influence from the Middle East featuring foods flavoured with spices such as zatar and sumac. Freekeh – a toasted green wheat will also begin making appearances on menus, as well as the breakfast dish Shakshuka, made of eggs poached in tomatoes, chili peppers, onions and spices. Also expect to see flavours from South America, particularly Brazilian cuisine, as well as bold Asian flavours such as gochujang, parilla, shishito peppers and togarashi spices make a statement.
Move over potato chips and pretzels. This year, we will see an influx of healthy snacks hit the market including snacks made from seaweed, dried legumes, flax, chia, hemp, coconut oil, dried fruits, nuts and other healthy alternatives. Also expect to see quinoa replace flour for cookies, muffins, bars and other dessert treats. Consumers can now snack without feeling guilty about what they eat.
Bread and spreads
Restaurant diners can expect to see some interesting spreads accompanying their bread baskets this year. Traditional butter will be replaced with flavoured hummus and eggplant dips, compound butters mixed with olives, fresh herbs, and even beets, or animal fats like whipped lardo.
Sweet and salty desserts
In 2014, expect to see many savoury items like salt and bacon mixed into dessert items. Salted caramel will be in everything -- from ice cream to cheesecakes to croissants to pie, it will be the most popular flavour of the year. Ethnic desserts will also be prevalent this year, like the Peruvian picarone -- a fried sweet potato and kabocha squash beignet, Korean rice cakes, or fusion items like miso-glazed donuts.
Rise of the mixologist
Restaurants will no longer employ a bartender who simply pours beer, wine and mixes standard cocktails. Expect to see the rise of the mixologist, or bar chefs who are elevating the art of the cocktail by bringing an added level of creativity and skill to the process. Mixologists are also using more ingredients commonly found in the kitchen to create their beverages including vegetables, herbs and spices. Just like consumers enjoy going to the restaurants of celebrity chefs, we will soon see people following celebrity mixologists.
Small-batch distilleries are multiplying dramatically every year, producing everything from whiskey, vodka and gin to absinthe and schnapps. Just like meat and produce, consumers now also want to know the origins of where their beverages come from, and are interested in locally-made, handcrafted liquors, beer and wine. With the rise in popularity of mixologists, expect to see many more craft liquors being offered at your local pub.
Reducing food waste
One of the biggest concerns for 2014 will be how to reduce food waste in restaurants. Statistics show that an alarmingly 40 per cent of food produced in North America goes uneaten, so there is a big need to cut down on unnecessary food waste. For restaurant owners and operators, this means serving smaller portions, repurposing leftovers, and cooking from root-to-stalk and nose-to-tail. Expect to see menu items featuring whole parts of both meat and vegetables, and nothing going to waste.