From floral flavours to hybrid dishes, game and exotic meat and sous vide cooking, here are the top 15 food trends of 2018.
The evolving nature of food
Every year thousands of new recipes appear all around us: on blogs, on social media, in magazines, cookbooks and restaurants. They shape what people eat and crave, what they dislike or aspire to. They shape the market and the demand, generating new opportunities for restaurants to grow and face new challenges. Trends are both good and bad; some kind of make sense (drink golden milk for all its vitamins) and some are just there to become viral, then forgotten (I, for one, have never understood unicorn bagels or funfetti). Trends have a strong impact upon the behaviours of consumers and businesses need to be aware of that.
It is uncontested that good food will always trump yearly trends, but if you take a cookbook from the 1960s and compare it to one from last year, you will notice uncountable differences in the dishes, ingredients used, techniques. Of course, it is easy to say that society evolved since the 60s, but the evolution was driven by what consumers had (or didn’t have) access to: time, ingredients, tools and other gadgets. More and more specialty shops are opening, making ingredients from all over the world available to anyone interested in purchasing them and I suspect that air-fryers, sous vide machines and ice cream churners, now at prices lower than ever before, will start populating an increasing number of shelves in both personal and professional kitchens.
But enough with theory. Below are the top 15 food trends that I believe will rule 2018.
The 15 food and drinks trends of 2018
Thanks to Masterchef, Instagram, and consumers’ growing knowledge of food, beautiful has become as important as tasty. Cookbooks by the famous chefs of the world, such as Rene Redzepi, Tim Raue, Dominique Crenn have become popular and easily accessible, teaching consumers how to plate their dishes skilfully in their own homes. Now even the local pub is serving its food in large, glazed ceramic plates and uses microgreens to give the dish a little bit more Instagrammability. Get ready to find more and more beautiful food in 2018!
2018 will be a year full of colour, at least when it comes down to food. Next to mixing the right flavours and textures, colour contrasts will become an increasingly important aspect for chefs. Beetroot, red cabbage, turmeric and matcha will gain popularity, becoming the secret tool to bringing dishes to life. The world is not so bleak after all!
I think it’s fine to accept that the time to use edible flowers to decorate every single dish and add a couple of extra euros more onto the bill for that is over. In 2018 chefs will focus on bringing the beauty of flowers into the flavours of dishes. Get ready to find more and more dishes with elderflower, orange blossom, rose extract, chamomile and other fragrant beauties!
Farm to table, root to stem
Supporting local producers and using seasonal ingredients will still be popular in 2018. Yet, as a next level, more and more chefs will embrace using ingredients from their root to their stem. Did you know that carrot top pesto is a thing? Well, you do now!
Intelligent cooking for better waste management
The so popular 2017 Netflix documentary Theater of Life started addressing a serious issue: food waste. Massimo Bottura’s recent cookbook, Bread is Gold shares recipes that you can cook with otherwise wasted food. 2018 will not only generate more awareness of how much food is wasted in kitchens around the world, but also bring innovative solutions on how to cook intelligently to reduce waste and help your community. If you wish to know where to start, here is a guide!
Everything sous vide
Be prepared to hear a lot about sous vide cooking in 2018! If you don’t have one already, treat yourself with an immersion circulator, and get cooking. Apart from sounding cool and making your customers crave your dishes, you will also be able to serve the perfect 63ºC poached eggs, a piece of beef that is uniformly pink throughout and a fish fillet that will surely not be dry.
Game and exotic meat
While chicken, beef, pork and lamb will still be on restaurants’ menus in 2018, there will be a stronger focus on game and exotic meat: it’s leaner, the animals lives’ are better, and they bring a brand new twist to classic dishes: venison Bolognese, wild boar burgers, ostrich steaks.
Polenta has probably been the most underestimated corn product, but there’s a reason why Italians like it so much. When seasoned properly (with fair quantities of salt) and flavoured with fresh herbs and parmesan, it becomes a great side dish for almost any protein! However, I believe in 2018 polenta will go beyond salt, herbs and parmesan, to become a versatile and exciting dish!
Be ready for a year full of delicious dishes featuring exciting purées: chestnut and celery, cauliflower and parsnip, coconut sweet potato and peas infused with star anise. There is no limit to how creative you can get when making purées. They will add softness and poetry to every dish!
The delicious, umami, fermented ingredient has become quite popular this year, but I am sure as of 2018 it will be available on every supermarket shelf. Ready to upgrade any mayo, sandwich or salad? Just look at all the great things you can use this ingredient for!
Since we’re in the umami section of this article, did you know how easy to is to create the fifth flavour using a couple of cherry tomatoes, some olive oil, garlic and salt? All you need is to mix them all together and bake them in the oven at a high temperature for 20-25 minutes. There you have a delicious ingredient to use in salads, on a breakfast toast, or even in ramen, to follow Ivan Orkin’s (not so) secret tip.
Sweet, savoury & hybrid
How do savoury eclairs sound? What about dessert hummus? Or a savoury cheesecake? Or a mushroom mille feuille? 2018 will be a year to let your creativity wander towards new heights: desserts will be turned into savoury dishes, savoury dishes will turn into desserts creating new hybrid dishes. Sweet and savoury will mix to create new flavour experiences.
Savoury, herbal, root to stem cocktails
The time of sweet cocktails is over! It’s time for a new era, one that celebrates seasonal produce, be it fruits or vegetables. Bloody Marys will re-conquer menus and will dethrone prosecco as the best brunch drink. Cocktails with lichens, lovage and mushrooms are here to stay and wow you with every sip!
Wine over beer
Thanks to more access to information through apps like Vivino and beautiful, easy to understand charts like the ones from Wine Folly, wine has become increasingly popular and appreciated. 2018 will be a great year for wine: Cabernet, Syrah, Riesling and Chardonnay will slowly replace the IPA’s, the hybrid ales, stouts and porters. In vino veritas, I say!
The consumption of sparkling water has grown over the years and I am sure its popularity will keep expanding in 2018. Are you trying to give up on drinking sugary, carbonated drinks? Replace them with bubbly water. You can opt for seltzer, soda or sparkling water (yes, there is a difference between the three).
No matter whether you agree with this list or not (or still wish to stick to the overrated avocado toast) remember one thing: skilfully cooked food will always delight our senses, be part of a trends list or not. To many great and delicious meals in the next year!