Food trends to watch in 2013Tuesday, January 1
With another year in the books it’s time to take a moment to look back and reflect on the year that was.
It was a very exciting, albeit somewhat exhausting, year for me. The year started off with working alongside Chef Tony Le, Mack Male, and Sharon Yeo to sell out a pop up restaurant called Blink. It was a one-time event where we created a pop up restaurant for one night only in a downtown pedway.
Despite some real trepidation, by all accounts the event was a hit. My focus quickly shifted to the opening of our newest and largest venture, MKT Fresh Food-Beer Market. As always, Edmontonians came out in droves to visit our new location. It made for an exhausting summer as we attempted to play catch up for most of the first three months.
We anticipated a good turnout, but nothing could have truly prepared us for the season we had. As the summer season came to a close we began to get a good grasp on what to expect of Whyte avenue, and I am confident that we are strengthening that brand each and every day. The fall brought its own share of excitement, as we participated in Feastival of Fine Chefs, a friendly cooking event to raise funds and awareness for Alberta’s vast array of produce and our apprentices. That was followed by Gold Medal Plates, which is an invite only cooking competition to raise funds for our Olympic athletes. I managed to place third overall, bringing home the bronze.
Next year we hope to make our way up the podium. Without a doubt, my greatest accomplishment in 2012 was welcoming a beautiful, healthy baby girl into the world in May. She has been a real blessing and helped to put her dad’s life into perspective. All in all, it was a wonderful year, full of excitement.
It wouldn’t be the beginning of a new year without looking forward too. As the chef at the helm of so many kitchens it’s imperative that I try to stay ahead of the trends. Here are my thoughts on what lies ahead for us in 2013.
Let’s start by looking at some of the food trends that have overstayed their welcome. The first one that comes to mind is the cupcake trend. In the past few years it would seem that everyone and their dog has opened up a cupcake shop. Don’t get me wrong, I too indulge in the occasional sweet cake, but it doesn’t mean that a city of our size needs a cupcake shop every three blocks. I foresee the strong few surviving and the vast majority of easy-bake oven experts falling by the wayside.
Now I know this may not be popular, but I don’t foresee the food truck trend lasting too much longer. The lustre has already begun to fade with our friends to the south and in my humble opinion it’s only a matter of time before most food truck owners start running out of cash flow. With the summer season lasting a meagre 120 days if we’re really lucky, it doesn’t leave a lot of days to pay the bills. I hope I’m wrong, because I sure do like paying a visit to events like What the Truck and sampling from an eclectic mix of great treats.
Again, this may sound a bit alarming, but a small part of me wants the foodie craze to fade away. Don’t let me be misunderstood, I always want more people to enjoy food and indulge in new creations, but I can live without every average Joe, who’s dining experience includes weekend trips to the local midnight donair shop and neighborhood pub, thinking they are the next Ruth Reichel and reviewing everything they eat. The Foodie has become the new Hipster and I can certainly live without it.
It’s not all bad news though. There are some great trends that we have seen develop in recent years that I see continue. The first that comes to mind would be the rise of the farmer. As our young chefs evolve they want to know more about where their product is coming from. The same can certainly be said of the consumer. More and more, people are increasingly comfortable paying a few dollars more to feel better about where their food comes from. This sort of thinking has allowed some local farmers and growers rise up from the shadows and with just cause.
I can also see the trend of sustainability growing in the coming year. From buying local and seasonal to minimize the impact on the environment, to buying sustainably farmed and caught fish in an effort to right the wrong of decades of overfishing our oceans, people will continue to be ever more cognizant of where their food comes from and the impact it’s consumption has on our planet.
Another trend that we have seen develop in the last year or two is the rise of the small independent restaurant. Young chefs are tapping into their entrepreneurial spirit and opening their own small 30 or 40 seaters. This is an incredible evolution for this town that has been saturated with big box chain restaurants for far too long. Can’t wait to see what Chef Blair Lebsack does with his new place on the horizon in 2013!
Speaking of small, I think the trend of small plate dining or tapas will continue to grow stronger this year. With the threat of a fiscal cliff leading North America into yet another recession, and the impact of last summer’s drought driving up commodity pricing, it will become increasingly difficult to get guests to part with their hard earned money. This will also push chefs to continue to be more creative, using less common and more economical cuts of meat and fish to offer their guests greater value.
Lastly, I see an increasing concern over the health of what we consume. Given the aging population and the increased impact of heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes, people will have to begin to take greater stock of their food choices or suffer the health consequences.
Well, there you have it. That’s how I see things shaping up in the coming year. If they all turn out to be true I told you so, but if not, why are you taking advice from me? I’m a chef, not a psychic!
In the spirit of the tapas style plates leading the way in the New Year here is a tasty little lamb dish that is yummy and seasonally inspired.
Grilled Pomegranate-Lime Lamb Chops
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Marinating Time: 45-60 minutes
Cooking Time: 6-8 minutes
Feeds: 4-6 people
2 pc.lamb rack, frenched (fat cap removed from bones)
*Chef’s Tip: To keep this dish more economical, you can substitute lamb loin that is sliced or cubed. Marinade it first, then skewer it and grill it. This will dramatically chop the costs down!*
¼ cuppomegranate juice ( I use the POM variety)
3 tbsp.pomegranate grenadine (can be found at the Italian Centre)
1 pc.lime, juice and zest
¼ cupextra virgin olive oil (check out Evoolution on 104th st.)
2 tbsp.minced shallots
2 tbsp.fresh chopped mint
TTsalt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 pc.whole pomegranate, use the seeds for garnish and texture
•Using a sharp chef’s knife cut the lamb rack into chops, sliding your knife between the bones
•In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients and stir to combine, this can be made up to one day in advance to allow the flavors to marry
•Preheat the grill, or if you don’t want to brave the weather, these can be roasted too
•Add the lamb chops to the marinade and let stand in the fridge for 45-60 minutes
•Remove the lamb chops from the marinade, draining excess oil
•Lightly season the chops and grill to your liking, I recommend medium rare, which is about 2 minutes per side, depending on thickness
•To assemble the plate, let the chops rest 1-2 minutes to keep them moist, then stack on the plate, drizzle with a little additional grenadine, olive oil and top with mint leaves and pomegranate seeds
I served my chops with a little spiraled potato frites, which are essentially home made hickory sticks or chips. Feel free to make your own, and season them with a little spice and salt. The heat and saltiness balance nicely with the sweetness of the pomegranate.