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The state of the center of the plate

As 2013 winds down, 2014 trend predictions proliferate, reaching a critical mass sometime around New Year’s Day. A few preliminary reports are in and here’s what some reliable industry sources are predicting about what meats and other proteins will fill the entrée portion of the plate.

  • Rising commodity costs for beef mean that chicken will be big again in 2014, according to Technomic’s Take: 10 Trends for 2014. However, pork is becoming a very popular pick—appearing in regional barbecue items, in Hispanic and other ethnic fare and in charcuterie. Technomic notes that lamb and game meats, from duck to bison, are also getting time in the spotlight. Beyond meat, look for creative center-of-the-plate egg dishes as well as vegetarian alternatives, from mushrooms to beans to soy-based products like Gardein and Chipotle's Sofritas.
  • Kazia Jankowski of the Denver-based Sterling-Rice Group also sees restaurants pushing the parameters of protein. Chefs are thinking outside the beef-pork-poultry box and putting more goat, rabbit and pigeon or squab in the center of the plate. She predicts that this will be a leading trend in 2014, as foodies increasingly seek alternative proteins, especially from small-scale producers.
  • In its 2014 Trends Report, AF&Co. (Andrew Freeman & Company) stated “gone are the days when there was always a chicken dish on the menu for picky eaters.  Restaurants are playing to more adventurous eaters and diners’ palates have risen to the challenge.” At Empire State South in Atlanta, for example, catfish, pork belly and goat are entrée choices, but chicken is nowhere to be found.  In fact, fried quail and fried rabbit are moving fried chicken aside on more and more menus.

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