Chef, TV presenter,
author and radio host
Food trends are notoriously difficult to predict, and rarely more so than in the fickle world of cuisine. Like most artistic modes, food styles have a dual pedigree – part innovation, and part logical extension of existing popular memes.
Here are eight up-and-coming food trends that are likely to hit your plates in 2014.
The Mexican wave is petering out. Australians tuned in to tacos for the last couple of years and while Mexican will remain enmeshed in our take-out foods, restaurants and foodies are now looking for the next big thing. With its hint of Spanish hedonism and a light spice-oriented style with which Australians are both familiar and comfortable, Cuban-Caribbean is party food with a real point of difference. Jerk chicken, beans and rice, goat stew and plantains are all likely to appear in a restaurant near you, and probably on your own table as well. Simple techniques, flame cooking, and rich soul-food flavours make it universally appealing and easy to reproduce at home.
Éclairs are the hottest thing in patisserie right now, filling the display windows of the trendiest shops in Paris and New York. In the wake of the macaron revolution, pastry chefs have been looking for another treat with equally universal appeal, and these crisp choux buns are resonating. Patissiers express their personality through unique flavour combinations – expect mixtures like wild strawberry and champagne, violet extract and Corsican mint, or mascarpone and hazelnut praline. Icings will move away from the traditional chocolate and be presented in a rainbow of colours and exotic finishes.
Expect to hear more about where your food comes from, and the story of who produced it. Food retail is segmenting right now in ways never seen before, as consumers look for points of difference and more honesty in the ingredients they buy. Food writer Simon Thomsen observes that “supermarkets are experiencing real customer pushback… provenance is all about real food versus the marketing and spin”. While ingredients whose provenance is clearly identified may cost a little more, the bigger bottom line might not matter as many consumers are looking for something more holistic than just the food itself. Claims of provenance have always been significant on restaurant menus, but in 2014 you’ll even find them on the milk, bread and meats you buy for home as well, led by advertising campaigns that claim the higher moral ground for our major supermarkets. Actual penetration may be limited to defined regions, however, tempered by socio-economic factors.
CLEAN FOOD, PURE FOOD
Australians are finally tuning in to the essential reality that the idea of ‘superfoods’ is nothing more than marketing puff. Goji? Chia? Blueberries? Spirulina? None of these make a difference when eaten in isolation. Getting healthy is a complete approach, and this means sourcing more-natural, less-processed foods. 2014 will bring raw flavours onto restaurant menus in new ways, and introduce a real emphasis on the manner in which the foods have been grown and treated. Steaming, poaching and dehydrating will all return as key techniques on the back of their healthy associations. Jeff Shcroeter, Food Director at the Cloudy Bay Fish Company, laments that the last few years have seen chefs and diners putting clever and over-worked food ahead of good nutrition, and believes that next year will see “a real rise in the amount of clean and healthy food people buy, and also the price they’re prepared to pay for it”. So, expect more to find more foods that are clearly labelled as being pure or allergy-suitable – organic, biodynamic, macrobiotic, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free and even vegan will be marketable assets both in retail and foodservice.
COOKING WITH FLAME
Talk about coming full circle. It took thousands of years of culinary evolution to create the modern kitchen, yet in 2014 modern chefs will all returning en masse to the most primal of cooking techniques – wood and charcoal fire. The return of wood grills into restaurants was only made possible in the last decade after changes to the design of equipment and modifications to building codes meant that non-gas fire sources could be approved safely. This revolution means big changes to the types of food we’ll eat, and the manner in which it will be prepared, with big joints of meat to share, slow-smoked poultry, and crispy-charred shellfish all likely to be readily available.
For a country surrounded by water, Australians are often remarkably unadventurous about the kind of fish they’ll buy. Salmon, tuna, snapper, barramundi and King prawns have traditionally made up the bulk of our seafood consumption, but that is all about to change. J
ohn Sussman, fish guru and seafood consultant with Fishtales, is excited about the diversification coming our way, arguing that 2014 is going to be a big year in fish. “Species like gurnard, latchet and albacore are just as delicious, and more sustainable – you’ll be seeing more and more of them”. And if you need a showstopper ingredient from the ocean, Sussman recommends that you look out for Gulf of Carpentaria banana prawns – sweet, rich and readily available.
Chefs and foodies alike are expressing their flamboyance by bringing back some of the forgotten culinary arts of the last century. Homemade butter, salt evaporated from local seawater, homegrown tea leaves, and even honey produced from rooftop apiaries are on their way. This vogue will supplant the recent fascination that some chefs have had with kitchen gardens, a trend that was largely fleeting and unrewarding – the effort, time and space required for boutique agriculture simply lost its charm on top of a 60-hour week in the kitchen. But smaller-scale ambition is very achievable. There is even one chef in Brisbane who has simple pepper vines ready for harvest, and a cinnamon tree from which he intends to harvest his own spice.
Fine dining will always have its place, but the numbers are getting harder to sustain in the face of higher operating costs and fewer staff available with top-end skills. Jeff Schroeter feels it is an unsolvable structural problem, “There’s nowhere nearly a big enough talent pool in Australia, and even if you could fill a kitchen with great staff, then you couldn’t afford the wage bill.” Total numbers of restaurants grew in 2013, but the largest increase was in café and bistro establishments, while high-end eateries have plateaued or even pared back. Across Australia, expect to find your favourite chefs offering less formal and more relaxed options in their restaurants, with simpler or even homestyle options, often re-inventing nostalgic classics with a distinctly personal twist. This casual revolution will synchronise with the increasing number of dining houses offering shared or small-bite options. Elle Vernon, Food Editor at Better Homes and Gardens Magazine is a fan, “it makes food far more exciting…and…best of all it encourages us to be more social, and have far more interaction at mealtime.”
MASCARPONE-MARASCHINO CHERRY ÉCLAIRS WITH BITTER CHOCOLATE AND PRALINE
65g unsalted butter
¼ cup milk
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup icing sugar
½ cup maraschino cherries, chopped
75g dark chocolate (70% cocoa) finely chopped
2 Tbsp praline, chopped
1 Preheat oven to 200°C. Combine the butter, milk and 14 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, until thick. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one a time, then beat until smooth.
2 Load the paste into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm nozzle then pipe 12cm lengths on a lightly-greased oven tray. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden, then reduce the oven to 140°C and bake for another 15 minutes with the door slightly ajar. Set aside to cool.
3 Beat the mascarpone and icing sugar until smooth, then fold in the cherries. Halve the éclairs with a sharp knife. Boil the cream in a small sauce, then pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Dip the éclair tops in chocolate, the sprinkle with praline. Spoon the mascarpone mixture into the éclair bases, then arrange the chocolate-crusted lids on top.
Ed Halmagyi – also known as Fast Ed – is an Australian chef, TV presenter, author, and radio host. Find him online here.