Seattle Food Industry Experts Predict 2016 Culinary Trends

Ever wish you had a crystal ball to prognosticate about culinary trends for the coming year?

Some restaurant professionals opt to bypass the occult and hire marketing consultants to provide the latest data about changing market trends. Consumer research firms, such as NPD Group, offer analytics on everything from apparel to watches, including food. According to NPD, Americans today purchase more almond milk, Greek yogurt, quinoa and sea salt than in 2011. And consumers’ fancy for fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, and poultry grew over twenty percent between 2003 and 2013.

Foodable WebTV Network takes it a step further by tracking down some of Seattle’s favorite foodies to share their insights about coming culinary trends in 2016:

Derek Ronspies | Chef/Owner, Le Petit Cochon

“I think we’ll see more vegetarian and vegan restaurants gain in popularity while others will turn to bugs and worms as a new delicacy. Think bars selling grasshopper tacos and what not. I ate at Nue a few months ago and we had a plate of water beetles that were quite tasty. They didn’t taste the way I expected — it was a fun experience.”

Eric Banh | Chef/Owner - Monsoon, Ba Bar, and Seven Beef

“Both alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks will be more sour by using vinegar and natural fermentation without using honey or processed sugar. Wines will gain its popularity again after five years of crafted cocktails frenzy. 

Customers will continue to support establishments with better and locally sourced proteins and vegetables. In fact, restaurant guests will eat smaller meat portions but better quality and no antibiotics added to meat. In turn, more balanced meals by larger vegetables consumption.

Quality lunch and dinner meals delivery services will increase its popularity due to busy lives among young office professionals. [We will] continue to see more new restaurants with casual atmospheres and affordable price points.

Dumplings, in-house made fresh noodles and pastas will continue to be strong in 2016. Heirloom grains and organic vegetables will continue to have high demand. In fact, they are here to stay. Especially fire-burned and charcoal-roasted vegetables.

Eastern European food - Hungarian, Serbian and Russian -  will have more presence on restaurant menus. “

Ethan Stowell | Chef/Owner - Ethan Stowell Restaurants

“Restaurants going to tip-less service. More self-serve restaurant models. Casual dining is going to be more popular.

Cider will be crazy popular. German food will be big.

More casual restaurants will have pre-fixe menus. Menus will start getting smaller and more focused.

Chicken will be the “it” food .”

Jason Stoneburner | Stoneburner

“Moving into the new year, we will continue to see restaurateurs grapple with the their answer to the Seattle minimum wage increase, along with the rising cost of goods, rent and overall operating costs. Restaurant owners/operators will be monitoring diners receptivity on any movements effecting the price of the final bill. But really, who want's to talk business when we could talk about tasty stuff?

You will continue to see chefs focus on a specific region and/or dish from other countries. For example, Kraken Congee focuses on perfectly crafted bowls of rice porridge (congee) or Kedai Makan getting their inspiration from a set of food stalls in a Malaysian market, both of which are delivering on a exceptionally focused level. Eateries like this give diners a unique cultural experience and it opens doors to new food stuffs.  

It can be difficult to create individuality in a marketplace where a large number of chefs source from the same farms, fisherman and foragers. Local sourcing has always been important to great chefs, but whats left when you already buy the best local ingredients: you grow your own! Having some control over what makes it into the ground and onto the plate creates a deeper connection and level of education for staff and diners alike. Not only can you bring new exciting ingredients to your diners but you can tout that you had a hand in growing it.”

Philip Lee | Slow Food Seattle

“We’re undergoing a strategic restructuring nationwide, to what I call ‘Slow Food 2.0.” observes Slow Food Seattle chapter member and Slow Food USA board member Philip Lee. “We’re shifting focus from not just what we eat, but how.”

Some of the changes Lee notes over the past five years he’s been Slow Food board member include a movement from food and wine-centric events towards education and institutional food programs.

For example, in 2015, Governor Jay Inslee designated September as Food Literacy Month, thanks in part to efforts by Slow Food Seattle, in conjunction with state officials. And Slow Food Seattle’s successful, ongoing School Garden Program teaches children to grow and cook fresh food, helping educate them about making healthier food choices in a practical, hand-on manner.

Looks like 2016 promises a year of innovation, experimentation. education- and humor, in Seattle’s always entertaining culinary industry...hold on for the ride!