Mid-year culinary trends

No matter how you slice it, gluten-free is leading the pack in food trends, which translates to big bucks for many as it becomes the world’s fastest-growing diet trend sparking a US$7 billion industry.

While the media and celebs bash all things wheat, grocery stores line their shelves with new products. Even churches are getting on the bandwagon with gluten-free communion waters! Last week at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, foodservice operators were addressing gluten-free consumer demands especially in the sauce, snack and dessert booths. (As a side note, even potato- and corn-chip suppliers whose products are naturally gluten-free were capturing the moment by touting the fact in their signage!)

Let’s take a look at what more the culinary year has in store. With so many road warriors in the hospitality industry, I thought I’d start this week’s post by announcing a trend many of us can relate to and appreciate: the expansion of good food in airports. Thanks to celebrity chefs who have discovered the beauty of a captive airport audience within the terminals, excellent cuisine is starting to appear all over the world. Some examples:

JFK  Todd English  Bonfire Steakhouse

Charles de Gaulle, Paris  Guy Martin (Paris Le Grand Vefour)  Miyou

LAX International Airport  Michael Voltaggio  Ink Sack

O’Hare, Chicago  Rick Bayless  Tortas Frontera

Heathrow, London  Gordon Ramsay  Plane Food

Miami International Aiport  Lorena Garcia  Cocina 

Next up on the culinary trend list: DIY yogurt. We all know Greek yogurt has taken the United States by storm as a replacement to virtually anything that contained mayonnaise or sour cream. Now a home invasion has occurred, and homemade yogurt is the new obsession. It is creamier and less tangy, and no special equipment is required to make it (just some patience!).

While tea is the new coffee with varieties galore, getting your daily caffeine jolt has never been easier. Many are cross-promoting tea’s value as a drink and cooking aide, while on the opposite side of the beverage trend you have seltzers, especially those spiked with splashes of fruit juice.  

Healthy kids’ food, thanks to new U.S. school nutritional guidelines, has prompted many companies to rework their products to fit those standards, leading to products such as baked snack chips made with whole grains, whole wheat crackers and granola clusters.

You don’t need a fire pit to get fired up about the new smoked-everything trend. And home-use smokers are being touted as a top gift for the holidays. The ideas are endless, from smoking your own salt and spices to use in rubs to infusing vanilla beans with wood-fired flavor. I hear there is even such a thing as “smoked water”! (Definitely keep an eye on this one.)

Here are a few more noteworthy trends popping up in the culinary world:

  • Celebrities purchasing beverage companies
  • Popcorn
  • Donuts with bizarre, unexpected toppings such as bacon
  • Bipolar cuisine such as Asian tacos or Mexi-sushi
  • Sour, tart and bitter flavors including vinegar

Please share what’s trending in your own kitchen, at your hotel or in your neighborhood. All trends have to start somewhere, so if you sense or feel something special or unique is happening in your hometown incubator, I’m sure readers would enjoy hearing about it as much as I would!