The National Restaurant Association asked chefs for their opinions on menu trends for the upcoming year. In its “What’s Hot in 2014” survey, the NRA reached out to almost 1,300 members of the American Culinary Federation throughout October and November. The questionnaire instructed them to rate 258 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or a “perennial favorite” for 2014.
The trends that remain on the top of the list included locally sourced meat, seafood and produce. In addition, environmental sustainability and children’s nutrition also stood out as important topics to today’s chefs.
But other food-related subjects moved around on the 2014 list from their placements in past surveys. For instance, gluten-free food went from 9th place to the 5th spot. It was also joined at 8th place by non-wheat pasta, which went up from 12th place the previous year. In response to the increased demand for gluten-free food choices in 2013, many restaurant chains, including P.F. Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen, introduced new dishes to enable customers with this allergy to avoid the wheat protein.
Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group, provided a statement about the results of the 2014 study. “Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research. True trends – as opposed to temporary fads – show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time, and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”
Trends that made the most dramatic shifts in the survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking (currently at 11th place), pickling, ramen, dark greens and Southeast Asian cuisine. On the other end of the spectrum, the topics that experienced the biggest drop in the “hot trend list” category were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, the use of different types of meat such as pork flat iron or Denver steak, grass-fed beef and organic coffee.
While Southeast Asian cuisine jumped the highest in trendiness among ethnic menu items, Peruvian and Korean dishes also made the top 5 list in that same category. Furthermore, “regional ethnic” and “ethnic fusion” also contained these alternative tastes in their lists.
When it comes to alcohol trends, the top 5 types were:
- Micro-distilled/artisan spirits
- Locally produced beer/wine/spirits
- Onsite barrel-aged drinks
- Culinary cocktails that use fresh ingredients mostly found in kitchens, not behind the bar
- Regional signature cocktails.
In 2013, a variety of chains started offering new regional signature cocktails. The Brazilian churrascaria chain Fogo de Chao introduced variations on its country’s national drink, the Caipirinha. Joe’s Crab Shack also developed several “Moonshine Cocktails” in keeping with the chain’s bayou history.
In response to a question about current food trends that will still be hot in the next decade, chefs predicted that environmental sustainability would be at the top, followed by local sourcing, health/nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free cuisine.