Local chefs make 2018 predictions; spoiler alert it’s all about local

By Cathy BranciaroliFood Correspondent , The Times

Cooking and eating local will continue to be a top trend in 2018.

Well, it’s that time of year, time for prognostication concerning foods we will or should hunger for in 2018.  The national associations and food producers have all weighed in on what’s hot for the coming year, along with what’s passé from 2017 – think main courses in Mason jars.

According to restaurant consultants Baum and Whiteman of New York, “plant based” foods will become very popular.  We would call this farm to table, with the emphasis on the fruits and vegetables supplied there.  They note that 31% of Americans practice meat-free eating at least once a week.

It appears that we are ahead of this national trend, as local foods have been a popular choice in our area for some time. Think about all the farmers markets that have blossomed across the county.

Scott Finneran, a chef at the Four Dogs Café in Marshallton agrees with this philosophy but goes a step farther.  In addition to purchased fruit and vegetables, Scott advocates what he calls “hyper local” foods, meaning that restaurants or home cooks are growing and cooking produce they grow in their own yards or at least from gardens within walking distance.

Nick Farrell, chef/owner of Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square believes that people are thinking more now about food as nourishment or medicine.  He also noted a trend that was not on the national organizations’ lists, which is that of individualized eating.  He said that diners today expect that specific requests will be honored, if not on the menu then in terms of the request.  Check out Nick’s upcoming website http://www.dineable.com/ for help making healthy dining choices.

Chef Finnaren echoed diners’ demand for allergy, vegan or gluten-free among other special requests.  He said that when he began cooking in restaurants, such choices were not the norm.  Now he said that a sizable portion of Four Dogs diners have specific needs they expect to be honored.  They want to see dishes that are part of their own lifestyles on menus

Tim Baker, executive chef at The Whip Tavern in Unionville, pointed out a growing preference for food that diners don’t have to deconstruct.  These dishes can just be picked up and eaten.  Simple and straightforward food seems to be what people want these days, he said.

Two areas where our chefs agreed with the national gurus were the demand for sustainable food practices and for ethnic dishes, including Italian, Indian and Mexican or dishes that mix these foods together.  However they disagreed with the pundits on boozy drinks that these research firms said are growing in popularity, particularly slushies.  Chef Finnaren discussed that he on the other hand is experimenting with craft, non-alcoholic drinks and expects this segment to grow.

So, all in all, we are set for great dining in 2018.  Here’s to enjoying it!

Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her award-winning blog Delaware Girl Eats

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