The results of the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of chefs are in: Foam and bacon-flavored chocolate are out; fried chicken, barbecue, Italian cuisine and eggs Benedict are still in; and ramen, pickles and Southeast Asian cuisine are getting there.

For its “What’s Hot in 2014” forecast, the NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 members of the American Culinary Federation in October and November and asked them to rate 258 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or a “perennial favorite” for 2014.

Once again, locally sourced meat, seafood and produce remain at the top of the trends, along with environmental sustainability and children’s nutrition.

Gluten-free food moved from 9th place to 5th place on the annual top 10 list and was joined, at 8th place, by non-wheat pasta — made with flour such as quinoa, rice and buckwheat — which jumped up from 12th place last year. Many restaurant chains responded to the increase in demand for gluten-free items in 2013, with P.F. Chang’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Dunkin’ Donuts and The Counter all introducing new items to appeal to consumers who are avoiding the wheat protein.

“Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group, said in a statement. “True trends — as opposed to temporary fads — show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time, and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”

Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill both undertook initiatives to promote the provenance of their food earlier this year. Chipotle introduced an arcade-style game and a video promoting the chain’s “Food with Integrity” message, and Panera Bread launched a campaign titled “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously,” that promoted its food sourcing as well as its charity efforts.

The trends that made the biggest leap in the survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking (now at 11th place), pickling, ramen, dark greens and Southeast Asian cuisine. The ones with the largest drop on the “hot trend list” were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat (such as the pork flat iron or the Denver steak), grass-fed beef and organic coffee.

Although Southeast Asian cuisine made the biggest jump in trendiness among ethnic cuisines, Peruvian and Korean cuisine also made the top-five list in that category, along with “regional ethnic” and “ethnic fusion.”

The top five alcohol trends were micro-distilled/artisan spirits; locally produced beer/wine/spirits; onsite barrel-aged drinks; “culinary cocktails” that use fresh or savory ingredients or other items usually found in kitchens rather than behind the bar; and regional signature cocktails.

Chains launching new regional signature cocktails in 2013 included Brazilian churrascaria chain Fogo de Chão, which introduced a line of variations on Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha, and Joe’s Crab Shack, which rolled out several “Moonshine Cocktails” intended to reflect the chain’s lowcountry and bayou heritage.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest 10 years from now, the chefs put environmental sustainability at the top of the list, followed by local sourcing, health/nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free cuisine.

For the full "What's Hot in 2014" results, visit the NRA's website >>

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
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