Mark Russell, Executive Chef de Cuisine:
When I first moved to NY, I found a job at one of NY’s premier food emporiums. Years before Eataly, Vanderbilt Food Hall and Googamooga had been conceived. I worked with a chef who said to me, “First thing you must understand is that, EVERYONE, absolutely everyone knows more about food than you.” A statement said with a bit of salt and sarcasm and a whole lot of reality.
Today with Instagram, Twitter, the Food Network, blogs, cheap airfare and travel, people are exposed to food and culture like never before. The competition is no longer exclusively the shop down the street, but the kid over in Brooklyn, the student watching Chef’s Table, or the well-traveled millennial.
Food trends can often be a flag at the opening of a “rabbit hole.” To navigate, you need to be tethered to a defined mission. Sometimes difficult in our world of event planning is this defined mission.
A bride needs a Chinese New Year-themed reception. Another wants all local and sustainable. A PR firm is launching a global brand with a theme based on the Dead Sea Scrolls. A legislator’s office is hosting a delegation from Qatar.
Defining our mission as “Collaborative commitment to service, innovation and quality” makes creating new food less daunting.
Here I have listed some of the top food trends found on the internet as questions, and my response.
Community: Great Performances works throughout the year with an ever-expanding roster of groups with a focus on community education and service for the underserved. Whether we are teaching children and their families to cook nutritiously, volunteering our time at outreach centers for the holidays, or participating in events for global food waste management, we remain activists at heart.
Food Waste and Sustainability: With constant exploration and research, we continue to add companies committed to sustainable practices to our list of suppliers. With transparent guidelines from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list, we seek local farmers and producers delivering the best ingredients. We are committed to a menu that changes with the season and highlights deliciousness and peak flavors. We recycle, compost and participate in food rescue programs. We donate crops gleaned from our fields.
Global Flavors: Here in NY, we have access to all the foods of the world. Whether it’s field trips to Arthur Avenue up in the Bronx, Kalustyan’s or junkets on the lower East side, we see it all. If we pay attention, great things are out there.
Old is New: Revisiting old classics, personal experiences and cooking what you know is the best practice. Cooking what my family taught me is second nature: my grandmother’s method for canning summer tomatoes, my mother’s leftover mashed potato pancakes with fried eggs. If we consider our roots, we are grounded. Look for this season’s Pot Roast passed bite, a nod to the Sunday dinners I grew up with.
Tim Sullivan, Executive Chef of Venues:
Food as Life Hacking: Life hacking for people 40 plus refers to the skills and shortcuts used to increase efficiency and productivity in one’s life. We see this in corporate with the increase demand for food service at Business and Industry accounts.
Increase of companies that are offering their employees complimentary or subsidized food while at work in order to keep people in the building but also increase productivity and drive morale. Breaking bread together as a team assists in forming tight bonds.
Brand Missions: Mission statements are as important as the food the company produces. Millennials pride themselves in loyalty to products not solely based on the quality of the product but also the company that makes it and what it stands for and how it operates.
Leaders of food service companies are throwing away antiquated systems and ways of thinking. Food is big business and one that needs to make money. The successful leaders understand the importance of social conscience, health and wellness, and enhanced nutrition.
Quick Eats: Challenging the fast food monopolies of our country, quick eateries offer fast service with a demand on quality and traceability. Poke bowls and ramen joints are grabbing big numbers.
Minimum Wage will challenge our analytics. With Minimum wage hitting $13 an hour in January and $15 in January 2019 companies are forced to rethink their analytics. I predict an increase in fast casual restaurants with true restaurant service disappearing and only available at the priciest and highest-end establishments. Technology will take over and two jobs will be consolidated into one.
Climate Change: USDA claims a climate change is going to create challenges for all of us.
By year 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach over 9 billion and more than half will be living in urban areas. Where does and will our food come from? (Watch the movie Before the Flood.)
Fresh Food: There is a more direct line of customers to farms. Farmers markets are everywhere and technology is a big push behind that. (Check out FreshFoodNY app.)
Younger smarter farmers are busting onto the scene with a huge increase in farmers under 35 and almost 70% with college degrees. This is a driving force in farming smarter and being more efficient.
Check out vertical indoor farming and not only how efficient it is but how it brings farms closer to people living in urban areas.
Fighting Food Waste: Cutting food waste and repurposing food goes beyond doing good; it is now driving force for increasing revenue. New companies such as FoodMaven are leading the charge. (Watch the movie Wasted.)
Other food and event trends:
Guests are looking for their Instagrammable
moments at parties: What’s worth posting? Branded trays, food that resembles
the product they sell (like a dessert mousse as moisturizer.) They want to
create an experience around a moment.
-Jessica Petrini, Catering Sales Manager
Guests are seeking an elevated coffee experience featuring high quality fair trade coffee, either using pour-over technique or brewed in small batches to ensure freshness - or used as an element in a specialty cocktail.
-Linda Abbey, Vice President of Sales
Guests want to create an organic feel with fresh herbs and fresh fruit in craft cocktails.
-Ken Bolander, Event Captain
©Chip Klose Creative
I am looking forward to the continuing the trend of healthier food options. I intend to show my guests quality southern food that is good for the mind, body and soul - sharing my vision of elevated southern cuisine and sharing ingredients from my home state of South Carolina.
-Corey Samuel, Executive Chef at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola