Local sourcing tops chefs’ trend picks for 2014

Consumers want to know where their food comes from—and they want it to be nearby. Chefs’ willingness to oblige will make local sourcing the dominant restaurant-kitchen trend in 2014, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot culinary forecast.

The 1,283 chefs surveyed by the association forecast locally sourced meats and seafood as the most pronounced influence on menus next year, followed by locally grown produce. The respondents, all members of the American Culinary Federation, went as far as to predict that ingredients grown in house will proliferate, landing hyper-local sourcing also among the top ten trends.

Along the same lines, the chefs predicted that environmental sustainability will be among the year’s top culinary themes. Just as consumers want to be aware of where their food is from, they want to know how it was grown or produced. Wanting to protect natural resources, including farms and the ocean, chefs and operators will strive to use more sustainably sourced ingredients on their menus, according to the NRA survey.

Health will also be top of mind again in 2014. Nutrition and healthful options for children both made the top ten trends list, showing that consumers are looking to meet their dietetic needs along with the needs of the environment. More than half of the chefs polled (59 percent) say they always make efforts to adjust their dishes or recipes to be more healthful.

In terms of menu options, that goes beyond the inclusion of more low calorie and low fat choices. The chef-respondents revealed an intention to include more selections for diners with dietary restrictions, such as those looking for gluten-free or wheat-free dishes.

The NRA’s Top 10 food trends for 2014

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Environmental sustainability
  4. Healthful kids’ meals
  5. Gluten-free cuisine
  6. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  7. Children’s nutrition
  8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Farm/estate branded items

In terms of specific menu items and techniques, the NRA expects the prevalence of foam and froth, bacon-flavored chocolate, and gazpacho to drop off. Conversely, fried chicken, barbecue and eggs Benedict are forecast to remain strong in 2014.

The trends that will gain the most traction, according to the NRA, are nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, and the use of ramen. Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries and new cuts of meat were cited by chefs as products likely to generate less buzz next year.

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