With the new year around the corner, there are a lot of questions on everyone's minds. Will quinoa be replaced by Kaniwa or Millet or some other type of bird food? Do we really want to drink Bulletproof Coffee? Will Bang Bang or Harissa finally kick Sriracha off its top spot, or is there room for all and more? Time will tell! But for now, here are my top nine food trends for 2015.
1. European Comfort Food - Everyone has their favourite, whether it's Mac & Cheese, Cream of Tomato Soup, Spaghetti Bolognese, Grilled Cheese Toast, or Chicken Kiev. Or in my case, all of the above. Well expect to see more of it this year (and outside of India International Centre & the Gymkhanas). In some cases it's been upgraded, in a few cases its been fused, and just maybe, sometimes it's even better than how your grandmother cooked it.
2. Regional Cuisine & Ingredients - India has a wealth of regional cuisines & ingredients but we are barley scratching the surface. Yes, we have seen the emergence of some non-typical cuisines like Bihari (Pot Belly), North Eastern/Himalayan (Yeti), or the soon to open Rustom's Parsi Bhonu, but for me the real kicker will be mushrooming of the wonderful & unknown ingredients that are hidden all over our country, just waiting to be adopted by clever chefs. We already have the world renowned Ghost Pepper from Nagaland, why not more North Eastern bamboo shoots and fermented soy bean, or lemon basil from Manipur, or Kerala black rice, or the sour husks of Goan Tepla Berries. And forget Paris, you now get your frogs legs in Sikkim!
3. Food Festivals - It's no secret that we are hungry. Hungry for options, hungry to try new things, and honestly really hungry for good food. We are also busy (read: lazy), and that's why having all that under one roof is a no brainer. We saw it coming with crowds of people clamoring over each other to get to the various Christmas Melas; But the recent Palette Food Festival reinforced that, with Delhi coming out in the thousands to enjoy a day filled with food, drinks and thankfully some sunshine! Let there be organic bazaars, food festivals, wine weekends, gourmet summits. We'll all be there.
4. Food Tourism/Travelling for food - No holiday is complete without a ready set of recommendations of where to eat. People will research & take food much more seriously when planning their next trip. In 2012, food expenditure by tourists in the US was close to $200 Billion, which is almost 25% of the total travel income. According to the University of Florida report: 'A Flash of Culinary Tourism', this makes food the highest category of travel expenditure.
So whether you are traveling within India or anywhere in the world, your itinerary must have its fair share of restaurants, what to order & perhaps a few advance reservations. I just got back from a 2-week holiday in France, and out the 14 dinners, 10 were pre-booked!
5. The downfall of the term 'Foodie' - This is more about hope. Hope that people will stop calling each other, or rather, referring to themselves as 'foodies'. How can such an under whelming word be so overused? Let me leave you with the Urban Dictionary's definition of a foodie:
'A douchebag who likes food.'
Douchebag - "I'm a big foodie."
Non-doucher - "Really? I like food too, but I'm not a tool."
6. Home Cooks - Till now the majority of home cooks have specialised in desserts, and all of us have ordered at least one birthday cake from aunty xyz. Now let's add biryani, chaat, pasta, cupcakes, kebabs, Regional Cuisines, and give you a convenient platform from where you can order. I'm sure that none of us would mind paying Rs.900 for a kilo of Goan Sausages & Potato Curry, cooked by Estelle Desai (Goan descent) with authentic ingredients? Reasonably priced, home cooked, and at your doorstep. There are already sites like Food Cloud, Foodyn & Imly that are doing this, and in no time more will appear, the process will be further streamlined, and before you know it, they will all be in your 'my favourites' tab.
7. Local Restaurants - M-Block Market in GK2 has over 50 eating options within walking distance of residents in that area. Neighborhoods are feeling more like... well neighborhoods, with smaller restaurants sprouting everywhere. Demand for local restaurants is outweighing supply in many residential areas, and it's only a matter of time before food equilibrium is achieved. After a long day at work & battling traffic to get home, I think we all deserve some close-at-hand goodies, and hopefully at least a few will be worth the walk.
8. Technology - There are multiple examples of how technology is getting smarter and more useful. Till now it has been mostly 'guest facing', but technology is also creating tools to help restaurants build, analyse & streamline their businesses.
I am seeing more restaurant staff taking orders on smart tablets, which are synced to their POS (point of sales) systems. As soon as you order, the ticket pops up in the kitchen, ensuring quick service, quicker turnovers and hopefully leaving less scope for order errors.
There are multiple point of sale (POS) related software in the market, that allow you to evaluate just about everything from the generic customer demographics, loyalty programs & contact details to more specific stats like what dish sells the most between 4PM & 5PM on a Thursday! New restaurants or stand alone ones would benefit most.
From groceries to restaurants, and strictly for the initiated, growing numbers of their websites (or 3rd party operators like Food Panda) allow customers to fill an online order form, press a button, and with a click of a button, it's delivered to your home! This saves man-hours, staff interaction, and increases revenue efficiency. Apart from the online orders, Asian Haus allows you to order over Blackberry Messenger (BBM) or even on Whatsapp.
9. Pop Ups - What is a Pop Up? Well it's a restaurant that pops up in a new place, with a life span that can vary from one week to six months. It can be used to test the waters and see if your menu / concept works, after which a larger and more permanent investment can be made. Or it could be an existing restaurant trying out a new city or relocating for a few months, like La Plage in Manali or Thalassa in Mumbai, both born in Goa.
Or it could be just a few chefs having some fun through creative & out of the box menus, like Delhi's The Pop Up. Whichever the format, I feel the food is more carefully curated & the risks that are often taken, usually pay off. In the US, food trucks serve a similar purpose, and we have seen some of the brightest talents gaining fame & popularity on the back of these, including Roy Choi (Kogi BBQ). In fact the recent movie, Chef, was very loosely based on Choi & the food truck movement.
'id Mathur is Director & Head of Food for Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality, which includes restaurants like Smoke House Deli and Social. He is also a food & lifestyle consultant, and enjoys working on 'out of the box' projects.'
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