Some noncommercial chefs looking at the National Restaurant Association’s just-released What’s Hot culinary forecast for 2016 may think “been there, done that.” Indeed, many of the Top 20 trends in this year’s roundup, which surveys chef-members of the American Culinary Federation, already are trending or are well baked into the everyday operations of noncommercial kitchens: locally sourced produce (No. 3), environmental sustainability (No. 6), sustainable seafood (No. 9), authentic ethnic cuisine (No. 12) and food waste reduction/management (No. 19), to name a few.
But there are a handful of hidden surprises for noncommercial operators among the 192 food, beverage and prep trends. Here are 10 takeaways with potential:
Housemade/artisan ice cream (No. 10)
Ethnic inspired breakfast items (No. 16)
Housemade/artisan pickles (No. 18) and housemade condiments (No. 32)
Whether for reasons of differentiation, healthfulness and freshness or cost effectiveness, noncommercial operators are feeling the appeal of cooking more items from scratch. Two accessible entries into the practice are scratch-made pickles and condiments—trends that have proven successful on restaurant menus recently.
Street-food inspired main courses (No. 34)
Variations on street food make multiple appearances on the NRA’s hot list, including street food/food trucks (No. 20) and ethnic/street-food inspired appetizers (No. 4). For high-volume operations, street-food style main dishes (No. 34), especially with an ethnic spin—tacos, satays and kabobs—may have the broadest applications.
African flavors (No. 35)
This ethnic trend was the biggest mover and shaker on this year’s list, rising 20 percent. African dishes offer new territory to explore for diverse operations that already have mastered the nuances of Asian and Mexican cuisines.
Kids’ entree salads (No. 49)
Healthy kids meals aren’t a trend on K–12 menus; they’re a mandate. As operators rise to the challenge of finding new ways to get youngsters to empty their trays, belly-filling salads are a maybe-trending vehicle that lends itself to creative applications.
Gourmet lemonade (No. 53)
Smoked dessert ingredients (No. 79)
Another way to differentiate dessert, including speed-scratch options? Add smoke. Noncommercial chefs singled out smoking as a growing cooking technique and flavor enhancer on FSD’s Chefs’ Council survey in October; its appearance on NRA’s list is further confirmation.
Regional gravy (No. 136)
While it may buck the healthy tide in comfort food, chefs looking to give these hearty menu staples an updated twist are finding it in regional gravies, such as sausage, black-pepper or tasso ham gravy.
To see all of the trends forecast by the NRA, click here.