How are food trends made? Is it chefs inspired by other chefs, especially award-winning ones? Is it chefs doing stages in the top restaurants of the world, and returning to create dishes inspired by what they have seen and learnt, as has happened in our country with Noma clones!? Is it chefs looking at photographs of food bloggers and restaurant reviewers, or their photographs on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook?
The six following food trends are hot right now:
1. Bread and Butter: something many restaurants have done away with appears to be making a come-back, in being created as something so special that it is a serious dish on a menu. Breads are now self-baked, Banting-approved butter is not only served salted or unsalted, but also with additives like cheese, salts, bone marrow, burnt onion, sun-dried tomatoes, or Marmite, or as I experienced at Boschendal’s new The Werf Restaurant with lamb and beef added, or with Shiraz added at Equus at Cavalli. Serving whipped butter is particularly trendy.
2. Since Banting took off last year, the price of cauliflower has soared in Cape Town, a staple element of Banting menus, including cauli-mash, making bases for pizzas, and as a ‘safe‘ vegetable. Internationally Noma has revived this vegetable, by serving it pot-roasted whole, topped with pine and yoghurt whey. It is served puréed, barbecued, pickled, and even as a ‘steak’.
3. Zero-wastage is also making itself felt locally, but still on small-scale, top-to-tail menus using every element of a carcass. Young chefs appear to support this sustainability focus, and benefits the restaurant financially too. The trend also includes house-made cheeses and yoghurts, home-grown mushrooms, home-milled flour, and house-cultured butter. Composting is linked to this trend, going back into vegetable and herb gardens.
4. Charcuterie: this curing and preserving trend is very visible in our country, and has even led to the opening of Cape Town restaurant Bacon on Bree by Charcuterie King Richard Bosman. Other restaurants make their own charcuterie, in addition to their standard menu. Chef Neil Jewell of Bread & Wine has long been associated with charcuterie (and own-made bread by his wife Tina), and makes his own, selling it in their Deli and it is on their lunch menu. So too Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg of Maison in Franschhoek has more recently started making charcuterie, and traveled to Spain last year during his winter break, to learn more from the masters in this country. They too have a Deli now, and sell their products there.
5. Pay before you eat: introduced in the USA at Alinea in Chicago, the ticketing system makes patrons pay for their meal before arrival, protecting restaurants against no-shows, a problem we see affecting local restaurants too, infuriating for the owner and costly in terms of prior prep and food wastage.
6. Seaweed as a dish ingredient appears to be taking off in the UK, but is barely visible locally, other than used by marine forager Chef Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet in Paternoster, and Camissa restaurant at the Table Bay Hotel.
What is anti-trend now is food served on wooden boards or slate tiles, or any other non-plate carriers, or baskets of chips, for hygiene reasons; butter in coffee; and the contradictory description ‘gourmet burger‘!