The Kings Speech

by Erin Thursby
Late last year, the National Restaurant Association asked 1,854 professional chefs (all members of the American Culinary Federation) what they thought the trends for 2010 would be.
Much of what we’ll be seeing in 2010 are carryovers from 2009. The localvore movement is still going strong, as evidenced by the number one trend: locally grown produce. Local meats and seafood get the second slot and number five is local brews and wines. Organic produce, sustainability, healthier choices for both kids and adults all make the list in the top 20.
The number three trend goes hand-and-hand with local food sourcing: sustainability. It’s a bit of a loaded word, hard to untangle–but it means that restaurants are looking for ways to buy meat, produce and other items from providers that care about the earth, and more importantly, replenishing these resources.
Number 10 is simply a more exact, citing sustainable seafood as a trend. What this means to seafood lovers is more, not less exotic fish on their plates. This focus on sustainability gives restaurateurs a reason to put non-traditional fish (#18) on the menu. This gives over-fished populations a chance to recover while at the same time expanding our palates.
Smaller portions also hit the menu in this survey–mini-desserts came in at number four. Chains have been following this trend for a few years, particularly with fixed price menus.
Food is a signifier of sorts, a barometer of who we are, where we’re going and where we wish to be. The driving force behind some of these changes is money. Having half-size entrees at a lower cost means that belt-tightening customers will return. Stocking fish that isn’t over-fished (and therefore more costly to restaurants and consumers) means that seafood selections can stay reasonably priced.
Also in the top 20–savory cocktails, back to basics food, regional ethic cuisine and alternative steak cuts. In these we seem to be reaching for the new but yearning for comfort. It’s as good a metaphor for 2010 as any I can think of.
But I see something else here as well. In the top 20 trends I see responsibility, a desire to make the world better through actions as small as choosing an entree, or in the case of the chef, choosing where to get tomatoes.

National Restaurant Association’s Top 20 Hot Trends for 2010
We’ve placed a First Coast restaurant or provider which has or follows the trend in italics. Some of them might surprise you. Tommy’s Pizza on Southside offers gluten-free alternatives in just about everything they can, including pizza. We’ve also included providers that you can use to shop for your own kitchen, such as Farmer’s Markets and the perennial favorite Native Sun.

1 Locally grown produce: The Farmers’ Market at RAM, Riverside
2 Locally sourced meats and seafood: Orsay, Avondale/Riverside
3 Sustainability : Chew, Downtown
4 Bite-size/mini desserts: Blue Bamboo, Southside
5 Locally-produced wine and beer: European Street Cafe, Various locales
6 Nutritionally balanced children’s dishes
7 Half-portions/smaller portion for a smaller price: Taverna, San Marco
8 Farm/estate-branded ingredients
9 Gluten-free/food allergy conscious: Tommy’s Pizza, Southside
10 Sustainable seafood: Beaver Street Fisherie
11 Superfruits (e.g. acai, goji berry,
mangosteen, purslane): Smoothie King, various locales
12 Organic produce: Native Sun, Mandarin & Baymeadows
13 Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients): Orsay, Avondale/Riverside
14 Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
15 Nutrition/health: Healthyway Cafe, Southside
16 Simplicity/back to basics
17 Regional ethnic cuisine: 13 Gypsies, Avondale/Riverside
18 Non-traditional fish (e.g. branzino,
Arctic char, barramundi) Chew, Downtown
19 Newly fabricated cuts of meat (e.g.
Denver steak, pork flat iron, Petite Tender)
20 Fruit/vegetable children’s side items