June 1st, 2020

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

How Has COVID-19 Changed Food Trends?

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Food trends during the coronavirus pandemic have, as you might imagine, changed from what earlier predictions may have expected. Isolation and self-preparation of foods has left consumers yearning for comfort and portability over experimentation and presentation.

During a recent RCA PoweredUp session, Mike Kostyo of Datassential discussed this very topic. By monitoring menu and retail trends from over 100,00 national sources, he showcased what consumers are really craving during this time.

Let’s look at some of the top trends highlighted.

Coronavirus Food Trends

Plant-Based Foods

Plant Based Food Trends

2019 marked a major up-tick in plant-based food representation on menus nationally, going from 14% in 2018 to 56% in 2019. Meat sales from April 12 to May 9, 2020 were 28 percent higher than in the four weeks ending Jan. 18, 2020 according to data from Nielsen. Plant-based meat substitutes, had a jump of 35 percent in sales during the same period. The increase for uncooked products was more dramatic: 53 percent for the vegan products versus 34 percent for meat.

Environmental concerns among consumers are also a driver for this trend. In fact, 21% of consumers are interested in plant-based foods for the environmental impact alone. Generation Z is undoubtedly the leader in plant-based food interest, with 64% of Gen. Zs having tried it and 1 in 5 saying they love it. So, if your target audience is comprised of Gen. Z, you should be considering plant-based options on your menus ASAP!

Mexican Food

COVID-19 Food Trends

Whether it’s the bottomless chips and salsa, the energetic social nature of Mexican restaurants, or the ice-cold citrus margaritas, Mexican food leads the pack for the most craved foods during COVID-19.

The tough part with most Mexican foods is portability. The crispy, crunchy tacos and tostadas tend to lose their texture, smothered burritos get a bit soggy, and fajitas just don’t have quite the same flair without the sizzle platter.

Many Mexican restaurants have overcome these limitations by providing deconstructed to go kits, creative to-go packaging with moisture vents, and limited menus to ensure what they are selling travels well. As Mexican restaurants continue to learn how to overcome these limitations (to-go margaritas certainly help!), you can expect this trend to strengthen and cross into other platforms, like pizza and burgers.


Pizza Popularity during COVID-19

Most experts expected pizza to be a top trend prior to coronavirus and it looks like they were right. Cravings for pizza have not decreased during the pandemic. In fact, according to QSR magazine, in March the pizza segment of restaurants showed the smallest losses (8%) but were already starting to level off again.

There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, pizza is still the most popular food in America. Additionally, pizza has high value, has been available to bake at home for years, and is essentially designed for delivery, so there was no consumer hurdle to get over when dine-in options closed.

Pizza companies have further increased interest in their products by offering plant-based options, family meal deals, and efficient contactless order and delivery methods.


BBQ trends

BBQ, the classic backyard event, and the All-American outdoor activity. Couple that with the warm summer weather and nostalgia for simpler times and it’s no wonder BBQ ranks high on the current trends list. Like meatloaf and apple pie, BBQ is a classic American comfort food.

Restaurants can easily incorporate BBQ items on their menus. Brisket tacos, pulled-pork pizza, and short-rib sandwiches are all crave-worthy inclusions that consumers will love. Plus, BBQ is extremely portable and loses very little quality in transport.

So, get those smokers rolling, the people want ribs!

Is Your Menu Adapting?

We hope so. Check out previous blogs to see what other trends we’ve seen and how restaurants nationally are responding. Chime in below with your thoughts on what’s trending how to attract customers. We love your feedback.

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May 7th, 2018

Worlds of Flavor 2018: A Review

Posted in Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

So Much to Learn, So Much to Eat

Worlds of Flavor

Worlds of Flavor 2018 is over. Done. Gone. Fin. You know what that means? It means I must wait a YEAR before I get to spend another 4 days in Napa eating amazing food, drinking terrific wine, and learning everything I possibly can from one of the most unique, talented, and diverse group of chefs and culinary presenters from the world over. This is my sad face.

However, I’ve never been one to sulk. So, what better way to cheer myself up than to share some of the great information and amazing revelations that came from the Culinary Institute of America’s 2018 Worlds of Flavor conference.

The Immigrant Kitchen

Food Trends

First, let’s discuss this year’s main topic: Immigrant Kitchens. As Krishnendu Ray summarized, “American” cuisine, at its essence, truly is immigrant cuisine. The food in America is a hodgepodge, or perhaps a better metaphor would be, a delicious soup of ingredients, culinary methods, and recipes from all over the world. Even the food we often consider decidedly American (hamburgers, hot dogs, apple pie) is adopted from early European settlers. And since colonialists did everything they could to wipe out Native American crops and traditions, it certainly received very little influence from their culture.

Yet here we are hundreds of years later and nothing, yet everything, has changed. Immigrants still account for the clear majority of those employed in restaurants (about 14 million nationwide according to Ray). Of the over one million restaurants in the United States, more than fifty percent (according to Ray) define themselves as a category other than “American.”

A big difference is that now, Asian cuisine (esp. Japanese and Korean) has become exceptionally popular even though it tends to be, on average, more expensive than European cuisine. So, what does this tell us?

It tells us that Americans are becoming interested in complex, unfamiliar flavors. It tells us diners are looking for experiences and adventure when they are dining out, not only food. And it tells us it’s time to start thinking about how we can start introducing some of these more uncommon flavors and ingredients into mainstream foods in subtle, safe, and easily approachable ways (just not crickets, at least not yet).


Now that we’ve had our lesson for the day, let’s jump into the fun part: Food trends, observations, and direct applications.

Asian Flavors

Culinary institute of America

I know we touched on this above, but it cannot be overstated. Asian flavors (Japanese, Thai, Korean, Filipino, etc.) have cemented themselves into American cuisine and they will only continue to grow in experimentation and popularity.

Miso is a ubiquitous broth, but now I’ve seen it flavored with different ingredients like koji and mustard. Fish sauce is becoming less polarizing. In fact, a study has shown that you can replace 25% of the sodium in a sauce or chicken stock with fish sauce with no discernible difference in taste.

Thai cuisine’s high usage of coconut and aromatics plays well with the nutrition focused crowds, while the craveable fermented flavors of Korean and Filipino foods are drawing praise nationwide.

Next Level Sauces

Worlds of Flavor

Sauces are food art. A combination of liquids, solids, spices, and seasonings come together to form a homogeneous solution of deliciousness (at least when done properly). They also conveniently add flavor to items that may otherwise be bland.

Lucky for us, there were plenty of new and delicious sauces and no bland food.

Of note was the movement back toward complex chile-based sauces. Rather than simply a cascabel sauce, we saw how a mix of chiles like smoky cascabel, arbol, pasilla, and aji amarillo can create balanced and new flavor profiles. It was nice to see multiple moles in use as well, including a yellow mole made with lemon, aji, and cashew.

Thai citrus sauces are evolving using local produce and artisan fish sauces. Modern American cuisine is utilizing aromatic broths made from the liquid of pickled and fermented vegetables served with creamy cheese-filled pasta.

Africa is also coming into focus with its pepper-based sauces, including a Trinidadian green sauce made with green chiles, cilantro, lemon, ginger, and onion. While we know in commercialization we can see losses in volatile flavors like cilantro, this can act as a peep hole into the possibility of crossover sauces good for Asian, Mexican, or African applications.

Added Nutrition

New Flavors 2018

Making foods more healthful is a trend that’s here for the long haul (thank goodness). But diners are interested in more than just low sugar and fat these days.

Fermented foods are growing in popularity due to their umami deliciousness, yes, but also their noted assistance in healthy digestion. High fiber foods have shown to assist in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and the reduction of colorectal cancer.

Within this trend, however, diners still want to enjoy a satisfying meal and be entertained. This balance is helping drive the movement of plant-centric plates, meaning the vegetable is the star of the plate, but it doesn’t have to be vegetarian.

Au Revoir Worlds of Flavor

This only scratches the surface of the information gained from the 2018 CIA Worlds of Flavor conference. I didn’t even get into the resurgence of tamales, the reinvigoration of fine Mexican cuisine, or the endlessly fascinating fonio grain. But, I can’t expect you to read forever. Honestly, I’m surprised you made it this far.

I hope you gained something valuable from this post, and I implore you to leave a comment, question, or share an observation below. Let’s start a conversation about the future of food.

Culinary Trends 2018



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March 12th, 2018

Expo West 2018 Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

What’s Trending at Expo West 2018?

Simple answer, lots!

Expo West Lolgo

The Natural Products showcase that is Expo West featured a bevy of fun, interesting, but most importantly, responsible foods and products that will continue to shape the landscape of the industry.

Unique new items included Alove, a yogurt made with aloe vera, oat and vegetable milks, Sushi Quinoa, Pervida’s pomegranate seed seed oil infused sparkling waters, and my personal favorite, chia fruit spread.

World of Chia, based out of The Woodlands, TX, has developed a line of fruit spreads using chia seeds instead of pectin. Not only are these spreads unique and delicious, but they embody the clean-label movement perfectly with only 4 key ingredients: fruit, agave nectar, chia seeds, and lemon juice.

Now let’s take a look at the trends with traction:

Pastas from Produce

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, “Alternative pastas, wow! Really groundbreaking.” Fair. But what’s special about these pastas is not just that they’re made from things like chickpeas, plantains, lentils, and brown rice, it’s that they actually taste good. Really good! And that is something to be excited about.

Artisan Jerky

We’re continuing to push towards high protein, low carb. and calorie snacks, and the folks running the dried meats show have noticed. The big companies like Jack Links and Oberto are being challenge by small batch artisan companies such as Epic and Three Jerks, with products like Maple Bourbon Churro Filet Mignon, Sesame BBQ Chicken, and Smoked Maple Salmon. I bet I have your attention now…

Tiger Nuts

Don’t laugh. This isn’t a Rocky Mountain Oysters kind of thing. Tiger nuts are actually a tuber that grows under the soil’s surface, much like carrots. They are highly nutritious, versatile, and do not contain the same allergens as nuts making them a great alternative. It seems some folks are starting to take notice. Organic Gemini Brand has developed a line of tiger nut products including flour, granola, smoothie mixes, and because apparently they love me, tiger nut horchata beverages. Additionally, Cabo Chips is about to launch a tortilla made with tiger nuts and cassava.

This is only a small snapshot of what I found. There was also a lot of traffic around small farm honey, pickled and fermented vegetables (are we going to see a return of sauerkraut?!), and healthy savory snacks like puffed edamame and high fiber savory veggie crisps.

We’d love to hear what you took notice of at Expo West. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments section.


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May 29th, 2017

NRA 2017 – Top Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Shows, Food Trends, Packaging, Product Innovation

Top Trends in Food from the
2017 NRA Show

Wednesday wrapped up a great week of learning and exploration at the 2017 National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, Il.

There was so much to see, touch, taste, and learn, but I’ll try to pick a few really popular trends to highlight for those of you who couldn’t make it.

Let’s dive in…

#1 – Cold Brew Nitro Coffee

Well if there was one trend that popped up more than any other, it was cold brew nitro coffee. On tap, artisan, slushy, and soft serve varieties available for whatever application you could imagine.

#2 – Go Nuts for Donuts!

Honestly, donuts haven’t really gone anywhere. Everyone loves fried dough. But NRA would show us that donuts, especially exciting, decadent donuts, are thriving. People are loving the idea of customization and seeing donuts in unique places like sandwiches and sundaes.

#3 – Compostables

All image above courtesy of PacknWood. Available at https://www.packnwood.com/home.jhtm.

If you want to take a stake in this millennial market you better be using compostable products. From plates, cups, straws, wrapper, utensils, to-go boxes, and even chopsticks, compostable products have become a must for any operation that wants to be a serious competitor.


Other noteworthy trends included sparkling beverages, including coffee and kombucha, guacamole variations, atomization in the food process, and a continuing array of vegetarian and vegan food products.

If you’ve noticed any cool trends or were at the NRA 2017 show and saw something I missed, let me know! We’d love to hear from you.



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December 9th, 2013

World of Flavors 2013

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Culinary Conferences, Food Shows, New Foods and Flavors, Trends

We arrived at the World of Flavors this year, to the yellowing vines of the vineyards. With the conference two weeks later than the year before, the harvest was over and the estates were bare of fruit. The valley was quiet, missing was the bustle of the grape gathering and the energy of the farmers.

This year’s theme is “Kitchens Connected”. Whether you are looking at how a chef is connected to his kitchen, the landscape around him, or the rest of the world via social media, the importance of our connection to those around us is so important.

Day 1:

Nathan Myrhvold of Modernist Cuisine gave the opening speech at the conference. He talked about why we shouldn’t be afraid to try new things (apparently including adding salt to the wine that Gina Gallo donated).

This was followed by commentary from Claus Meyer, founder of Noma, a self-ascribed fat kid growing up, with a father who demanded excellence to the point of being obsessive. Among his most proud accomplishments is his prison program, where he mentors prisoners with a desire to become a chef. He has also opened a cooking school in Bolivia with the aim of allowing marginalized families to rise from poverty while at the same time create a New Bolivian Cuisine. You can read more here:


Later we would hear from Edward Lee on the evolution of Southern Cuisine, and how it sometimes takes an outsider to rethink a classic. His recipe for Southern fried chicken is a study in the fusion of Adobo chicken with the Southern classic. A partial poach in an adobo broth (with vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, garlic, and bay leaves) is followed by a buttermilk and flour dredging, and a brief rest. Since the chicken is already partially cooked, the chicken only takes 5-6 minutes to cook compared to regular fried chicken, which typically takes 15 minutes to fry. The pre-poach serves as a timesaver in the restaurant as well, guaranteeing fresh chicken is sent to the table every time.

At the World Marketplace, the French onion soup at Maxime Bilet’s booth was the showstopper, and one of the only booths with a long line. Simple really, the soup had the purest, most intense onion flavor, and was complemented with micro-root vegetables such as leek, red onion, and carrot. One can only assume that his secret is the pressure cooker that he swears is the world’s most underutilized timesaver. The broth was so flavorful it left me wanting more than just a small taste.

Christopher Kostow, The chef at The Inn at Meadowood showcased his take on the rutabaga. It is cooked in a crust of salt, egg whites, and the volcanic ash common to the area around the restaurant. To serve, the crust is broken open and a lovely golden red rutabaga emerges, slightly salty, definitely earthy, but very delicious.

My favorite dessert of the night was the apricot dolma at the Chobani booth. It was a sweet take on the traditional dolma. Apricots rehydrated in sugar syrup are stuffed with a Chobani yogurt and mascarpone blend then dusted with pistachios. It was a nice refreshing dessert that was super light, and on the healthy side.

Day 2:

The day started with a general session that discussed the place for French cuisine at the millennial table.

Chef Masayasu Yonemura showed us several interesting Japanese foods, including O-Fu (dried wheat gluten) that has been rehydrated in milk-egg-honey-5 spice powder mixture. It was then pan-fried like French toast and spread with a black truffle and port wine reduction. He finishes it with griddled foie gras medallions, Japanese greens mixed with tofu and tahini, and a carrot-leek fond de veau.

Sang-Hoon Degeimbre of L’Air Du Temps in Belgium jokes that the first time he ever cooked was the day that he opened his restaurant. Two years later, he received his first Michelin star, and the second one in 2007. He showed us recipe for earthy potato “humus”. He distilled the essence of the dirt from the fields his restaurant as part of the dish. Tourneed potatoes cooked in salt brine are finished with soil water and dehydrated potato skin powder. He cooks from emotion and is drawn to root vegetables because of his recent return to his own roots in Korea.

Alex Gauthier, chef at La Grenouillere shows us that food should be emotional, and in his sorrel ice cream dessert, he evokes the stronger emotion of anger. The sorrel ice cream is used to fill a clear sugar orb. The plate features grilled sorrel leaves, and sorrel oil. Once the plate is set in front of the customer, the server smashes the sugar orb of green sorrel ice cream onto the plate, surprising the diner. His approach to food has breathed life back into French cuisine with his fun and inventive ideas. He has definitely found the formula for appealing to millennials.

My first seminar was on sous vide. It was a rather interesting seminar, which started with a Japanese-American hybrid dish. Shinobu Namae prepared a beef dish hat was marinated with Shio-Koji. Shio-Koji contains koji, a bacteria that is essential to sake-making. The bacteria Aspergillus Oryzae produces several enzymes that break down the rice into glucose. These same enzymes work on the protein in meat to tenderize it. The salt added to the Shio-koji inhibits the growth of unwanted organisms. Shio-koji is very high in umami, and can replace up to 50% of the salt in a recipe without compromising flavor. Chef Namae cooked the Shio-Koji marinated sirloin in sous vide at 52C until the internal temperature equalized. He then grilled the beef between sheets of cedar wood. The beef was served with persimmon and turnip dressed in a tofu dressing.

Cesar Vega gave an interesting talk on how to consistently sous vide eggs. After thousands and thousands of eggs were cooked sous vide he was able to conclude that a mixture of time and temperature can give a specific result. For example, if you want eggs yolks the consistency of honey, you could cook at 60C for 300 minutes or at 63C for 100 minutes and achieve the same result. These temperatures take into account the proper temperature calibration, as the incorrect temperature can skew the results. See the link for a graphical representation:


At the general session, we heard from Jared Rivera, founder of Chef’s feed. It’s a rather useful app to chefs. It shows restaurant recommendations from some of the world’s best chefs. The Chefs Feed Network on YouTube showcases hours of video footage from the kitchens of the U.S. brightest chefs as well as instructional videos on their favorite foods. There was some thought provoking discussion during this session regarding social media and its impact on a restaurant. The average millennial wants a restaurant connection, not just a meal. They want to feel as if they play some part in the success of your brand. They don’t want your marketing intern to do your tweets, and they can tell the difference. After all, one of the most important things to the millennial generation is authenticity.

The afternoon session brought us the food of Josep Roca of El Celler de Can Roca. The restaurant was named the #1 restaurant in the world for 2013 by Restaurant Magazine. He showed us several interesting techniques, including direct smoking, which is a technique he uses for squid parmentier. Throughout the entire presentation, the one common thread was the love of family. His close family ties are so apparent; in how he lovingly talks of his mother and her food, and how talks so fondly of the relationship with his brothers. Here the connection to the family is the sole reason that the food has become the best in the world.

Here is a picture of them serving their parents “The World”:

In my kitchen workshop with Virgilio Martinez we sampled interesting foods from Peru, including chunos, a form a freeze-dried potatoes. We also had tiger’s blood: a puree of Aji peppers, algae broth, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and lime juice in several different presentations, including fish ceviche and root vegetable ceviche.

We tried kaniwah, which is a smaller cousin to quinoa. The seeds are about ½ the size of regular quinoa, but stay rather crunchy.

The highlights of the world marketplace for Friday included the smoked potatoes with black garlic vinaigrette and fermented ramp mayonnaise from Bar Tartine. They were one of my favorite foods at the entire conference.

Then I had the wild seaweeds braised with Dungeness crab from Lummi Island chef Blaine Wetzel, the very essence of the sea in a steaming bowl. The crab flavor was intensely flavored, yet softened by the briny saltiness of the seaweed.

The beet-cured salmon with pea cake and sweet honey sauce is almost too beautiful to eat, taking on a brilliant cranberry color from the beets.

Day 3:

My morning session was with Andre Chiang and Jesus Nunez on the topic “Hybrid Inspirations and Unique Culinary Philosophies: Dazzling Diners From Spain To Singapore”. The chefs talked about from where they draw their inspirations.

Andre Chiang’s Octaphilosophy consists of 8 elements that he feels are unchanging: Memory, Purity, Terroir, Uniqueness, South, Artisan, Salt and Texture. He incorporates at least 3 of these elements into each of his dishes. He is a master of making dishes that are not what they seem. His version of risotto uses squid cut into rice shapes then cooked in cauliflower puree and finished with shaved macadamia to resemble cheese. The dish has the consistency of risotto, yet is totally dairy free. He also makes rice crackers from dried cooked rice and charcoal powder, which he deep-fries to make crispy.

As far as Jesus Nunez inspiration, his comes literally from the design world. A former graffiti artist, he sees the beauty all around him. He draws inspiration from architecture, the art of the masters, the countryside, or wherever he finds beauty. The dish that he showed us was “Not Your Average Egg”, which included many elements of nature. The dish consists of a sweet potato puree with a “nest” of al dente spring vegetables. But what makes this dish so memorable is the “egg”. Sun choke that is cooked in methylcellulose then pureed is poured into an empty eggshell, and the egg yolk is added back in. Once the “egg” is baked, it is peeled and placed in the “nest”.

For a great representation of his work, you can view it here:


During Saturday’s black box exercise, several powerhouse chefs took the stage to showcase their unique interpretations of the trends that were on the inspiration board at the conference.

For his black box exercise Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions chose eggs, quinoa, fermentation, and mushrooms. His restaurant was graced the “Best New Restaurant” award by the James Beard Foundation for 2013. He talked us through his process for salt-cured eggs, and it had me intrigued: 10 days covered in salt, then 20 days of air-drying, followed by a light smoking. The eggs are grated and have the consistency of cheese. He also shared his secret for taking quinoa to the next level: cook it in water, then fry it to make it super crunchy. His dish includes fermented turnips and wild mushrooms cooked in tons of butter.

The words that called to Elizabeth Falkner were: “deep space flavors”, “no foam”, “cooking from the inside out”. For her ingredients, she chose farro, burdock, Fresno chiles, jalapenos, bonito, dashi, squid ink, lemon zest, xanthan gum, bottarga, and soy for her ingredients. In her rebellious nature, she chose to use foam, stating that it can never really go out of style. For deep space flavors, she chose the bonito, dashi, lemon zest, and peppers for a complex “deep space” flavor profile. The most interesting part of her demo was where she used charcoal to cook squid from the inside out. Cleaned squid were cooked atop the hot coals of charcoal. You could literally see the squid cooking, contracting and steaming as it cooked. The effect was mesmerizing to the audience, and a really cool idea.

Kyle Connaughton merges new with old by marinating his cod in Saikyo Miso (a sweet miso made predominantly rice, also called Old West Coastal Miso) and yuzu kosho. He then grills it over binchotan charcoal and finishes it with charred uni, ginger buds, and shiso and wasabi buds:

Maxime Bilet used the terms “no foam” and scavenged ingredients to deconstruct his grandmothers pot au feu using sun choke, beef, and charred leeks:

After the black box session, we saw Hajime Kasuga of Ache in Lima Peru prepare an interesting twist on sushi. He is one of the premier Nikkei chefs in Peru. He fills a shrimp shell with cooked tapioca and pairs it with dehydrated scallops. The dish is accompanied by powdered shrimp shell, fish roe, and sliced lime sprinkled with chile powder:

As for tastings at the World Marketplace here are my favorites:

Dried Turnip Pasta: Christian Puglisi of Relae showed us an interesting way to prepare turnips. First they are dried in an oven, and then rehydrated by soaking for 2 hours. Once they are soaked, they are cut into juliennes and boiled in salted water and drained. A quick cook in a sauté pan with butter renders them pasta like, slightly al dente, but with the subtle flavor of the turnips. They are finished with chervil, horseradish, and mustard seeds. His way of cooking

Almond and Pistachio Keskul: another recipe from the Chobani folks. A keskul is a traditional Turkish almond pudding. It was finished with Turkish cotton candy, chopped pistachios, and pomegranate seeds.

The afternoon’s final general session before the closing ceremony featured a demo by the affable chef, Isaac McHale of The Clove Club in East London. He showed us a fried chicken recipe using pine salt that I had the luxury of tasting at the opening world marketplace on Thursday:

The closing address by Dr. Tim Ryan was one of the most inspiring and thought-provoking presentations of the entire conference. His parallels between the art, music, and culinary worlds was illuminating, with examples of how a simple change or addition can result in a giant leap forward in innovation. He asks us to pay attention to the clues and hints that surround us, opening our minds to the possibility of innovation.