Over the last few months, I’ve attended a few industry gatherings to hear about what’s cooking in the minds and kitchens of some of Canada’s top chefs. At Restaurant Canada’s Breakfast with Champions, top chefs and restaurant executives shared their views on what’s hot now and what we can expect in the upcoming months.
Health consciousness, sustainability, novelty and innovation are driving creativity in the kitchen, leading to some tasty and thoughtful menu choices. Here is what we are seeing and what you can expect to see soon at corporate events:
- Culinary themes: Locally sourced foods, street food inspired fine dining, international cuisines such as Southeast Asian, Indian, Korean, Mexican. Upcoming – Farm/estate branded ingredients, hyper local sourcing (think rooftop gardens!), more international cuisine such as African, Peruvian, Moroccan coming into the mainstream.
- Prep methods: Sous vide (see http://modernistcuisine.com/2013/01/why-cook-sous-vide for a great explanation). Upcoming – pickling, fermenting, liquid nitrogen chilling. Liquid nitrogen milkshakes are causing a stir south of the border. Ultra thick, velvety and with smoke emanating from the cups, they add quite the dramatic flair to the table. Add some liquor for a milkshake cocktail.
- Appetizers: Charcuterie and house-cured meats, artisanal poutines, cheeses and flatbreads top the list. Upcoming – ethnic and street food inspired bites (taquitos, tempura) from the Far East, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America are showing up in restaurants at all price levels. The venerable meatball, recreated with cheese stuffing or non-traditional spices, is finding its place on menus. In fact, simple, back-to-basic flavours and ingredients like apple pie, maple syrup and bacon are being used to create exciting taste “mash-ups”. How about bacon infused desserts or avocado mouse?
- Super grains and super foods: Quinoa and kale have quickly become a menu fixture for sides and salads. Upcoming – Non-wheat noodles, ancient grains and super fruits (acai, goji berry, mangosteen – a tropical fruit that is grown primarily in hot, humid climates of southeast Asia and is known for its medicinal properties) will be soon coming to menus near you!
- Proteins: Sustainable seafood. Upcoming – Watch out for non-traditional and underutilized fish like mackerel, bluefish, barramundi, Arctic char to name a few. As for meat, underused cuts of meat will continue to grace our tables. Look for beef cheek, brisket, pork shoulder, skirt steak.
- Non-alcoholic beverages: We have been seeing a renaissance in tea with more specialty teas flooding the market. Upcoming – watch out for artisanal soft drinks, house-made, with specialty ice teas featuring unique and international flavours.
- Desserts – Bite-size and mini treats; sweet and salty, artisanal and house made-ice creams currently entice us. Upcoming – those interesting combinations of flavours will continue to inspire dessert makers, leading to even more exotic offerings. Chefs are experimenting with deconstructed classic desserts, creating new favourites out of old! And like the meatball, the ice cream sandwich (my personal favourite!) is being re-invented. No longer just vanilla ice cream between two pieces of chocolate cookie, this sandwich comes deluxe featuring homemade wafers with gourmet ice cream in a wide variety of tantalizing flavours, served up with toasted nuts, coconuts or toffee.
Savvy meeting planners and event attendees want culinary experiences that are as inspired as they are delicious. Looks like they won’t be disappointed.