Top 2013 restaurant dining trends!

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Dining TrendsAn American hospitality management company Benchmark Hospitality International has just released its ‘Top Dining Trends for 2013‘, based on observations by the chefs and culinary experts in its 39 hotels and restaurants.  The bottom line is that diners look for ‘Fresh, local, and in season‘!

The trend to fresh and seasonal food is not new, the hospitality group says, ‘it’s what our grandmothers did day after day. They knew exactly what their family dined on as they had grown it in the garden and purchased it from the local butcher. It was fresh, in season, and bursting with flavor’. This is what diners want today as well, they conclude.  These are the top dining trends they identify:

*   Chef crafted:  chefs are doing everything themselves, including smoking, canning, making their own relishes and jams, pickling, and even growing their own vegetables and herbs. This allows chefs to control the quality and flavours of every element which they serve.

*   ‘3000 Years of protein perfection‘: quinoa is the new vegetable, being gluten-free, and called a ‘superfood‘, with multi-purpose use in a restaurant, from Breakfast as a muesli to served as a side-dish for lunch or dinner.  The grain dish was first grown in the Andes 3000 years ago, and the Incas regarded it as sacred.  The United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa!

*   Parental control over food: parents are seeking healthier foods for their children, grilled rather than fried, baked rather than deep-fried, hummus and fresh fruit dips instead of fat-rich sauces.

*   Smoking: everything is being smoked, not just to preserve the foods, but also to add to their taste, including olive oils, cocktails, water (!), and cream.  The trend to smoking foods with tea (as was evident on MasterChef SA Season 2) has evolved to the current favourite of smoking with coffee and cocoa!

*   Food origin:   patrons want to know where their food comes from, not just that it is freshly caught fish, but they want to know the name of the boat and of its captain, and in which waters the salmon were caught.  They want to know more about the area, and the history of the restaurant.  They are interested in sustainability, responsible  and humane slaughtering, and local chef-prepared ingredients.

While these are American dining trends, South Africa seems spot on as well, with the exception of the smoking trend, which we may only be seeing the beginning of.  We have seen the strong movement to sourcing vegetables and herbs by specialist suppliers such as Steve the Magic Man, the La Motte herbs and vegetable garden, specialist mushroom suppliers, and some restaurants planting their own, such as Delaire Graff, The Greenhouse, Babel, Dish at Le Franschhoek, Overture, Camphors and Stables at Vergelegen, Makaron, and The Millhouse Kitchen at Lourensford.  Sustainable beef, lamb, chicken and eggs come from Farmer Angus at Spier, or Elgin Free Range Chickens.

Linked to the fresh and seasonal trend is that of foraging, Chef Eric Bulpitt of The Restaurant at Newton Johnson having led the way when he worked at the former Jardine’s, especially after he went to do a stage at Noma in Copenhagen.  Chef Chris Erasmus is an avid mushroom forager on the La Motte farm.  Kobus van der Merwe of Oep ve Eet in Paternoster is a beach food scavenger, using sea weed and interesting plants growing wild on the beach in his cooking, also baking breads in the shape of sea products.  Foragers of the produce of wild plants in Cape Town are making jellies and cordials from the berries, and selling them at the market at the Oranjezicht City Farm. Top to Tail is also the new buzz word, and once again Chef Chris Erasmus is leading the way, but Chef Richard Carstens of Tokara has also hosted specialist top to tail themed dinners.

A South African trend slowly emerging is pride in South African heritage with a modern twist, using local recipes handed down from forebears of centuries ago, and using traditional ingredients, reflecting the influence of our Dutch, French, German, British, and Malay ancestry in the Cape. Pierneef à La Motte has been particularly proudly-Cape Winelands in developing heritage recipes, with its Chef Chris Erasmus giving the dishes a contemporary twist.  Proudly-Afrikaans is Chef Nic van Wyk  at Diemersdal Farm Eatery, coinciding with his participation in Kokkedoor as a judge.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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