by Gretchen Morfogen

2011 was a culinary collision of sorts. So many new ideas came together with the momentum of a freight train but just as quickly faded on down the tracks. Very few of these trends are here to stay. But a few that went outside the box and those that redefined following the rules are permanent fixtures on our culinary foray.  And as a follower of what’s happening in the food world, I wish to report on the upcoming trends both edible and social we are more than likely going to see in the upcoming year.

Food trucks have been a booming alternative for the brick and mortar behemoth that restaurants are, but the popularity of the mobile eateries have shown investors that this chef is worthy of the permanent fixture and many of them have settled into a facility- more power to them!

Molecular Gastronomy is a very tricky venture and unless you are Grant Achatz or Ferran Adria better stick to what you know…..  Some of the attempts border on absurd.

Bacon was the latest “craze” …. it’s bacon for crying out loud. The most outrageous over the top betting on the bacon item was bacon flavored envelopes. Really?! It’s taking a back seat to potatoes! Leave it to the chefs and marketers to come up with the most abundant and everyday food item and create a frenzy about it.  Be on the look out for gourmet fries, gourmet mashed potatoes, fanc(ier) flavored snack chips and anything over the top a creatively crazy culinarian can create. Twenty + years ago when I worked at one of the top restaurants in the country (and it remains a top place today) the chef was all about potato sculpting. Gaufrettes, dauphinoise, croquettes, in house chips, stuffed chips, puffed chips you name it – we did it. Same goes with flavored foams- so my point is – it’s all been done before…

However, 2012 will give rise to new trends that are part of the picture only because of the evolutionary process that manifests itself in the food world.

1. Cupcakes are out – hand pies or tartlets are in (I forecasted this last year as well) I was never a fan of the cupcake movement only because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and these gargantuan desserts are just way too much for me…. A flaky, fruity or custardy tartlet or hand pie are right up my alley and I think the 2-3 bite sweet is the perfect amount.

2. The Global Influence reaches epic proportions with One World foods- a fusion of the planets cuisines morphing together in a divine collaboration of textures, flavors and ingredients.

3. The Celebrity Chef is changing too (hopefully for the better) Many of them have had a cooking show, plenty of cookbooks, cookware and gadgets named after them but what’s next? Look for Celebrity venders/suppliers. What better way to create sales around food items than have a chef choosing the products they deem worthy! It’s on the horizon and many of them are already there leading the way with websites touting their wares.

4. Many chefs are leaning towards what we can call “Gastro Nostalgia“. Basically it’s getting away from the funky, freaky, food combinations and luring diners with familiar foods, properly and artfully prepared at a price which brings them in with more frequency. Meatloaf, pot roast, mac n cheese, fried chicken, shrimp and grits and the like are going to been a fixture on many menus and regionality will play a huge part.

5. Sustainability will take on a whole new meaning when chefs gain a deeper relationship with local farmers and begin to create their own  – on site kitchen gardens in order to know and grow their own produce, herbs etc. In urban areas the rooftop gardens, vacant lot coops, and shared plot relationships continue to bud into community renewal and amped up green responsibility.


6. The Agri-Chef is a term that will be used to describe the chef turned farmer, turned agri-advocate. As the concern for food resources continue to grow and the populous’ demand more information on where, how and who grows our food the agri-chef is going to play an important role in many of these changes.

7. Keep and eye out for Convenience Stores- yes- I said it. The small, several in every neighborhood stop and shop stores are taking on a popularity that goes beyond the fountain drink with a fill up. They are becoming a place where food is purchased daily (sometimes more than once) and due to the volume everything is fresh, made daily in local commissaries, and taking on an enormous part of the market share of food purchases.  The C-stores I visited in Europe were awesome! They had a great selection of cheese, fresh bread, beverages, great salads (sandwiches aren’t as big there as here), peeled hard boiled eggs, and one package of hard salami even came with a small knife (not plastic) talk about convenience!

8. As I said last year the advent of the phone App. will continue to evolve as various companies seek out the people who rely on the phone as their lifeline to everything. The smart phone  has created a whole new world of data gathering information with the scannable bar code so nothing has to be typed anymore. Restaurant reservations, shopping lists, wine recommendations etc. The possibilities are endless.

9. Pickles. I envision a trend of not just small cucumbers in dilly brine but any and all vegetal entities to be flavored with heat, sweet, herbs, spices, curries, (not all at once mind you) but if the regular pickle can take on such an huge market I see the rest of the vegetables wanting to compete with the popularity, convenience, variety, and practicality of pickling. Look for chefs to take on the pickling trend with plates adorned with their brined brilliance!

10. Watch for the emergence of gastro-pubs and niche dining. The bistro had been beaten to death by overuse and what I used to think of as a bistro is super casual, simple, reasonably priced food has become a clash of snooty, over priced, designer space, lost-in-translation eateries. Find a chef who knows who he is and what he likes and you will find niche dining. I’m not talking uncreative limited cuisine but confident, personal and awesome!

We’ll see what happens on the horizon as 2011 hopefully leaves us reflecting that our health is the most important thing in life. And as MFK Fischer so eloquently says “first we eat, then we do everything else”.

Gretchen Morfogen is a regular culinary writer for The Healthy Planet magazine. You can read back articles by Gretchen at www.thehealthyplanet.com.