Thanks to bloggers, online media and Instagram, the cyclical nature of food has turbo-charged to a dizzying pace. Here are the top food trends for 2015.
Each decade leaves its own stamp on culinary inclinations - from wrangling food into a wobbly jello or mousse in the 70s, nonsensical flourishes and fondant in the 80s, and the explosion of pre-made stir- fry and pasta sauces and focaccias in the 90s. But at no other time in history have food trends been so documented.
Simon Wilson, event director for the globally renowned Taste Festivals, fills us in on the technologies, techniques, flavours and dining trends that will steal the spotlight over the next 12 months.
1. Cyclical nature
"Trends are by their nature cyclical; nothing ever disappears entirely; today's trend is next year's retro offering," says Simon. But there is one thing that will never go out of style. “I think food of good quality will always have a fan base. Hopefully in 2015 we see the end of average food. The market is so competitive that hopefully Darwinian logical prevails and only the strong survive.”
2. Online community
While Simon concedes it’s the chefs that define food trends, it’s the online community that gives them momentum. “I think chefs define food trends; what they serve in their restaurants defines a trend. But that’s not to say that media coverage and support can’t help shape the narrative. Is something even a trend if it's not written about, blogged about and Instagram-ed to death?!", notes Simon.
Whether you’re a dedicated foodie who wants to populate their Instagram feed or just want to try something different, Simon recommends getting off the beaten path. “Seek out the unusual and exciting, take the road (or bus route or train line) less travelled to get to the new 20-seater in the not- so-desirable postcode to experience real ‘trend food’. It’s usually in a place where the rent is cheap and owner/operator is slogging away 90 hours a week trying to bring their culinary vision to life. Go and support them in 2015.”
3. Japanese techniques
Over the last decade, Japanese food has found a genuine fan-base in Australia – and according to Simon, we’ll see the culture of this food evolve. “Something I have seen a lot of is Japanese techniques prevailing,” says Simon. “From rabata grills to Katso sandwiches on nice paper, it’s all the rage these days.”
“Noma’s pop up in Tokyo this year has seen a lot of chefs from Australia travel to Japan on a foodie pilgrimage, and a lot of them have brought ideas home with them and some of these ideas have manifested on our plates in their restaurants. I think in 2015 we will all continue our quest for the elusive umami. And by that time, people will hopefully figure out what it actually is.”
4. Indigenous food
“I think indigenous cuisine and indigenous ingredients will become more and more prevalent over the next while,” says Simon. “Highlighting the cuisine and cultural heritage of a country is not something exclusive to Australia but has gotten a lot of coverage this year through the work of chefs like Jock Zonfrillo and his restaurant Orana in Adelaide. Jock’s TV series ‘Nomad Chef’ actually documents his exploration of native ingredients in regions like Africa and South America.”
5. Native Australian
Master gastronomist Heston Blumenthal put native Australian ingredients in the spotlight last year when he announced he would be experimenting with the likes of lemon myrtle, pepperberry and bush tomatoes in his new range for Coles. And it looks like the rest of industry is following suit. “Interestingly in the wine space, two of the best bartenders in the business have just opened a bar called ‘This Must Be The Place’ in Sydney and they are championing the Spritzer using native Australia ingredients; I think that will catch on this coming year, but you heard it there first," says Simon.
6. Back to basics
Over the last few years we’ve seen a backlash against preservatives, unrecognisable ingredients and numbers in our food – with more and more consumers taking a leaf out of our grandma’s hand-written recipe book. “Back to basics was a trend with jamming, canning, fermenting, and growing your own", says Simon. "This is still prevalent, but I think it’s gone beyond a trend at this stage, I think it’s the new world order.”
7. Championing simplicity
“Chefs are valuing pristine quality ingredients simply served with one central component as the hero, or on the flipside chefs want to get everything they can from their produce; taking time over their ingredients; adding value by infusing, reducing, dehydrating, germinating and dry-aging (hopefully not all at once) to get the most out of the ingredient and achieve a certain textural and flavour profile,” says Simon.
8. Dude food
“Even when they said dude food was dead everyone still loves a burger,” says Simon. “There’s always a massive queue at Mary’s in Newtown, Sydney. Fried chicken is en vogue; Belle’s blazed a trail in Melbourne and now Merivale are about to follow suit in Sydney.”
“I appreciate ‘modern cuisine’ of any genre when it's done well,” says Simon. “When a chef takes something established or traditional and tries to put their interpretation of it on the plate, I’m always keen to try and understand it and interpret what they were trying to convey. Sure, there have been some car crash attempts and some people are happy to say 'I told you so' and that you 'shouldn’t mess with the classics', but when it’s good it’s very very good; it makes me appreciate the intention of the original in the context of the new; Lumi Dining in Sydney is a great example of this.”
10. A return to true hospitality
It doesn’t matter how good the food is, if the service is less than satisfactory, it will always leave a bad taste in your mouth. “We’re all happy to eat from a paper plate, or perch on a milk crate in an alley way if the grub is good but it's so important that it is served with true hospitality," says Simon. "Whether it’s silver service or paper packaged, I don’t want to be made to feel awkward about my dining experience or feel silly for asking for a wine explanation. I want it to enjoy the ordering process, the learning experience and feel like the staff at the particular eatery were happy to have me rather than rolled their eyes that they were busy that night. It can be quite obvious when you’re being served by someone who’d rather the restaurant was empty so they weren’t so stretched.”
Even though leaving a tip may not be the cultural norm in Australia, if you have received good service, Simon says it shouldn’t go unrecognised. “True hospitable service should always be rewarded with gratuities and good feedback.”
11. Culinary soundtracks
It shouldn’t just be your taste buds that enjoy the food – restaurants are starting to appreciate the value of a true sensory experience – and that includes our ears. “I think the soundtrack to your meal is a vital part in setting the tone, putting you in the mood for the experience ahead," says Simon. "Get it right and you can heighten the whole occasion and keep people in their seats ordering a digestive or another bottle of wine; get it wrong and people are rushing out the door without dessert to go and queue for gelato around the corner where the tunes are pumping."
12. Restaurant reviews
There’s little doubting social media such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have indelibly changed the culinary landscape. "I think social media has steepened the learning curve and lessened the margin for error for restaurants, " says Simon. "If the food is bad other people will hear about it, conversely if it's good; if it looks the part and tastes the business and shines through an Instagram filter then it may well become the hot plate in town.”
13. Food bloggers aren’t going anywhere
“I think some restaurateurs and chefs (and established food critics) might say that the prevalence of food bloggers as 'new food media' is not the best thing for the restaurant industry; some say that they are guns for hire with no vetting or haven't got the credibility to justify their ‘following’ or audience numbers," explains Simon. “I think that they definitely have a part to play and that in the main people aren’t stupid; they can tell if someone is being paid to praise as opposed to offering a balanced account.”
What food trends would you like to see stay or go? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!