With increasing competition in the restaurant industry and customers who are more conscious of what they are putting in their bellies than ever before, it’s important to keep on top of the latest food trends.
We spoke to a selection of Australian chefs to find out what will be hot in 2017.
Healthier options such as salads and dishes that require less fat and oil are in demand, says Damien Pignolet, who is executive chef at harbourside Sydney eatery REGATTA Restaurant and Bar at Rose Bay. Pignolet says he has seen Asian cuisines flourish over the past 30 odd years, and says Australia can be proud of the marriage between established and modern cuisines, as well as European to Asian. “The latter has the advantage of seeming healthier, since whilst there is a lot of stir-frying there is much less fat and oil employed,” he says.
There is growing demand for sustainable, healthy cuisine and a justified trend for animal welfare says Frederic Colin, who is executive chef and co-owner of French bistro Bistrot Gavroche in Sydney’s Chippendale. “Sourcing sustainable food of great quality is a more expensive exercise but we chose to do that from the launch of Bistrot Gavroche in 2016,” he says.
“For instance, sustainable fish is essential to the industry’s future and pasture-fed beef is also a better option for the environment. We use less butter than the traditional French recipes, and butter at the Bistrot Gavroche is clarified (a process that removes the ‘bad fat’ from the butter). The challenge for the chefs is to please the customers while being mindful of the healthiness of a dish.”
Vegetarian dishes are also becoming more popular as people become more aware of the planet and their health, according to head chef Chris Yan from Lotus Galeries, Lotus Barangaroo and Papa Bo Min in Sydney. “I like to cook for vegetarians, even vegans,” he says. “It is more exciting because we can focus on creating a rich sauce to accompany the fresh and light ingredients.” He also believes use of native ingredients will continue to rise.
Dusty Treweek, from modern Italian restaurant Bottega in Melbourne’s CBD, says menus that are mostly vegetarian with just a couple of meat or fish dishes may become more common. “Meat and fish are going to get a lot more expensive,” he says. “One in 10 Australians now identify as a vegetarian of some sort. Menus are going to start to reflect this.”
Treweek also believes there will be a continued focus on local produce and a renewed interest in the providence of food. “At Bottega we use as much local produce as possible and it is fantastic to forge good relationships with our food producers,” he says. “I hope that we see a bit of a movement away from ‘over-the-top’ grotesque junk food.”
Seaweed and coastal greens will be among the hottest ingredients for 2017, according to Ian Royle, who is head chef at Flying Fish in Sydney’s Pyrmont. “They are becoming more and more available to chefs,” he says. “They have a natural saltiness and bring umami to complement seafood dishes.”
Tyson Gee, who is chef de cuisine at radii restaurant & bar at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne agrees seaweed and sea lettuce will be on trend this year. “In the past they have been underutilised and underrated and now chefs are rediscovering how delicious they are,” he says.
COOKING WITH CHARCOAL
Gee also sees cooking over wood and charcoal as a major trend this year. “It’s the most primitive form of cooking but takes a great deal of skill, precision and intuition to know how to do it correctly,” he says. “Cooking over hot coals adds such an amazing depth of flavour that you can’t achieve any other way.
At radii, we already have a small Japanese charcoal grill and a large wood fired oven. We base the menu on what’s best in season at that moment and figure out how we can best utilize the tools that we have to enhance the food.”
MIDDLE EASTERN AND AFRICAN INFLUENCES
As far as global food trends go, Royle believes Middle Eastern and North African flavours will become more popular. “Merging Australian produce with different worldly flavours is something we already do at Flying Fish,” he says. “We often combine Japanese elements in our seasonal menus, however we always make room to showcase what we are seeing around us. The barramundi dish on our autumn menu will be based on Middle Eastern flavours, for example.”