2017 Food Trend Predictions: Local-Sourcing, Non-Traditional Ethnic Cuisines, Food Transparency, Ancient Grains and More are on This Year’s Agenda

2017 Food Trend Predictions: Local-Sourcing, Non-Traditional Ethnic Cuisines, Food Transparency, Ancient Grains and More are on This Year’s Agenda

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

Every new year brings a new set of food trend predictions. And it’s not always easy to see into the future. 

“A good trend is like an Impressionist painting,” said Dana Cowin, the former editor in chief at Food & Wine to the “New York Times.” “It’s something that looks like one thing, and then you dive in and see it’s really a collection of many little points of paint.”

Not to mention, trends don’t just occur over night and they have habit of sneaking up on you. 

“True food trends move at kind of a glacial pace,” said Annika Stensson, director of research communications for the National Restaurant Association to the “New York Times.”. “It can take a decade or more to reach the mainstream.”

Last year, we saw consumers gravitate to high quality, locally sourced ingredients, cleaner foods, gluten-free foods, Vegan foods, seasonal menus, ethnic foods like Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, alternative protein sources, sustainable food, hand-crafted beverages, and more. 

Are any of the above just a temporary fad? Or was it just the beginning?

We decided to sit down with Stensson who leads up the research effort for the NRA’s What’s Hot chef survey and the annual Restaurant Industry Forecast, to see what food trends are expected to emerge or gain momentum in 2017. 

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Mamnoon: A Modern Union of Middle Eastern Cuisines

In Arabic, Mamnoon translates to “thankful” or “grateful.” In Seattle, it’s an establishment in Melrose Square that explores the intersection of Lebanese, Syrian, and Persian cuisines, an ode to the heritage of co-owners Racha and Wassef Haroun.

“We’re in the middle of a really vibrant community,” says Jason Stratton, Mamnoon’s chef and general manager. “People come here for lunch everyday, and it’s really an expression of that we’re so grateful to be here, to be representing this ancient cuisine, thankful for our guests, thankful for each other, and thankful for the opportunity to really showcase a lesser known cuisine in this part of the world.”

Stratton’s culinary background is mostly rooted in Italian and Spanish cooking, so this is a new adventure for him. He likens the profiles of Mamnoon’s cuisine to the spectrum of Mediterranean. “A lot of these ingredients are very familiar to me, and so looking at these other flavor profiles, to me, it’s an exciting thing to explore,” says Stratton.

Not surprisingly, hummus is one of Mamnoon’s best-selling menu items. In this “Table 42” vignette, Stratton shows us how the restaurant makes its carrot beet tahini, a slight play on traditional hummus where the chickpea base is substituted by carrots from a local farmers market. 

“There’s such a tradition of community. Eating as a social thing is very important,” says Stratton. He adds that this mentality is picking up more and more in the U.S. “Americans are kind of more reverential of sitting around the table together and breaking bread.”

Stratton hopes that when guests visit Mamnoon, they have an experience that opens their eyes to what Middle Eastern food is all about. “That feeling of discovery is really exciting for the staff, as well,” he says. “And I think it’s something the guests are really responding to.”

Fine Dining Embraces More Ethnic Flavors on Menus, and Middle Eastern Cuisine is Having a Moment

 Pickled Octopus with Greek vinegars and herbs, sundried tomato, capers and olive salsa. | Foodable WebTV Network

 Pickled Octopus with Greek vinegars and herbs, sundried tomato, capers and olive salsa. | Foodable WebTV Network

Now, more than ever, we are seeing new flavors take the forefront on menus. Ethnic cuisine has become embraced, especially by Millennials. The rise of ethnic concepts within the fast casual sector of the restaurant industry, for example, has become one of the Top 3 most frequented segments, after sandwich and Fresh Mex, according to recent RSMI data*. But with Millennials having most spending power in more affordable sectors like fast casual, what’s to say of fine dining?

Perhaps Gen Xers and Baby Boomers aren’t as known to willing push their palates, but, according to a recent piece in the New York Times, fine dine guests are appreciating these new tastes, as chefs are beginning to really infuse more ethnic cuisine into their menus, and more ethnic ingredients into their dishes. Middle Eastern in particular is having a moment. Read More

 

*Stay tuned for our Annual Fast Casual Social 100 Report, coming soon!