Each year, the National Restaurant Association conducts a survey to identify the hottest culinary trends.
This year's survey tells us in no uncertain terms that sustainability, hyper-locally sourced foods, plant-based foods, and vegetable-focused dishes are some of the nation's hottest food trends. Below, we've provided the NRA's top-10 list of current chef-focused trends which restaurants are following to meet customer demands for sustainability, nutrition, taste, and personal choice.
1. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused drinks
According to the "What's Hot Culinary Forecast," 77% of the American Culinary Federation chefs placed drinks infused with cannabis or CBD as the top trend. And it's anticipated that this trend will only become more popular in the future as more states legalize cannabis.
2. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused foods
For some time, cannabis-enhanced foods were limited to desserts. Now, however, chefs are experimenting with all sorts of healthy options across the menu, made from cannabis-infused ingredients such as honey, nuts, coffee, and all-natural teas.
3. Zero-waste cooking
Zero-waste cooking ranks as the third top trend overall for 2019. Each day, chefs are finding more ways to use all parts of a food product, particularly plant-based items. As the NRA reports, chefs are now using coffee grounds to flavor ice cream as a way of reducing food waste. They're even using cabbage butts in stir-fries, not letting even the smallest usable portion of a plant-based food go to waste.
4. Globally-inspired breakfast dishes
Chefs are searching the world in person and on the internet to find inspiration for breakfast dishes. Rice, soup, vegetable-and-bean bowls (like the Hawaiian poke bowl, the traditional Latin American rice and beans, or Asian rice dishes), are becoming popular for breakfast. And not only are they high in nutrition, but they're always carefully prepared and made into a great presentation from to appeal to today's highly visual consumer.
5. Global flavors in kids' meals
Chefs are taking inspiration from spices and flavors from North, West, and East African cuisine, Latin America and Spain, and Asian countries to influence kids' meals. Turmeric, ginger, and Asian spices (particularly Korean and Filipino flavors) are showing up on children's menus.
6. Hyper-local food sources
Chefs are going as far as using plant-based foods that come right from the restaurant's own gardens. When that's not possible, they rely on local farmers' markets and other hyper-local food sources so that the farm-to-table connection is absolutely transparent to today's consumer.
7. New cuts of meat
New cuts of meat such as shoulder tender, Merlot cut, or oyster-cut steak made the top trending spot for the last two years according to the NRA. These once "secret" cuts are now becoming more common, although the NRA notes that they are starting to drop in popularity this year as plant-based dishes continue to be on the rise.
8. Vegetable-centered dishes
In 2019, chefs don't believe that you have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy a good rice and bean dish made with an exquisite mixture of spices and visually appealing fresh vegetables. After trying some of these attractive and tasty vegetable-centric meals, many meat-eating customers will think about eating vegetarian at least a couple of times a week.
9. Fast-casual concepts
Fast-food chains are consulting some of the country's most renown chefs to come up with their hallmark non-meat feature. Burger King's Impossible Burger is one key example. In these carefully crafted dishes, you'll find global spices combined with plant-based foods in the form of veg burgers and salads, or meats prepared in innovative ways.
10. Craft beers, artisan, and locally produced spirits
Craft and artisan alcoholic beverages that are produced locally have been the rage for some time, and continue to be popular in 2019. Chefs frequently have their own favorites, if not their own special house brew.