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Chef Laura's predictions for the 2013 eating season

Every year around this time, celebrity chefs predict food trends for the upcoming year.  In the past it’s been shockers like: “Deviled Eggs are Heavenly!” and “Popcorn – not just for movies anymore.”

Sometimes a trend sticks; take Greek yogurt, for example.  It took a few thousand years for this creamy delight reach the U.S., but when it finally did, it pushed aside the pedestrian American cultures on the Safeway shelf.

Other trends explode onto the scene and almost become a staple. I’m talking cupcakes, sliders and baconizing everything from doughnuts to air fresheners. 

Then there are the trends that come and go so fast, your wanna-be-hipster Dad didn’t even get to modest-brag: So Mom and I went out for sea urchin last night…

I enjoy trends.  Like Dr. Evil doing the Macarena, I, too, want to be “hip” and “with it."  But I also like tradition. 

What tickles my nostalgia is that many of today’s fads are in my grease-stained copy of The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook circa 1941. You know the one: the three-ring binder with the gingham checked cover.

Crack open this relic and you’ll find:  Devils on Horseback, Pigs in a Blanket, Meat Pies (aka empanadas, which are incidentally…trending), and chapters on “Classic Cocktails” like: Rob Roy, Rusty Nail and Grasshopper.  And you can bet that these throwbacks are on a Food Truck menu or served in a “hidden” Speakeasy near you.

Here are Chef Laura’s gastronomic predictions for this eating season:

  1. Who shrunk my plate? – This is today’s “slider." Minis are still hot.  Samplers, flights, shooters and small plates.
  2. Where’s the Beef? – The cow is becoming sacred – not for religious reasons – but because raising cattle is crazy expensive.  Vegetables steal the spotlight. Meatless Mondays, “premium” chicken cuts and lesser quality beef cuts (pot roast anyone?) fill menus.
  3. It’s Crafty – Coloradans jumped on the craft beer band wagon before there even was a band…or a wagon.  Now there’s a circus of brewpubs, microbreweries and even nanobreweries.  Growlers have replaced six-packs; “Beer & Breakfast” takes over where traditional “B & B’s” left off; and let’s start cooking with beer: sauces, soups and dips get hoppy.
  4. Pass the pink slime – Clean food is in.  Not in a Clorox way, but in a Whole Foods way.  Less of the stuff you can’t pronounce with weird acronyms (HFCS) and more of the good stuff.  Colorado-based Chipotle calls this “Food with Integrity."  It doesn’t have to be organic or gluten-free – just more what nature intended and purchased a little closer to home.

The ridiculous ephemeral trends in 2013:

  1. Sherbet Punch – Ginger ale, some random booze, pineapple juice and scoops of rainbow sherbet adorn this pastel bowl of sugary goodness.  Everyone put a straw in and now it’s a hipster’s “Scorpion Bowl."
  2. Tuna Noodle Casserole – a deconstructed version – maybe made with Ahi Tuna and a wasabi cream in place of StarKist and Cream of Mushroom soup.  Hey, that actually might work, and bonus – no can opener required!
  3. Waffles used as a hamburger bun or hot dog bun or in place of sandwich bread.  Don’t waffle on this trend.  We’ll iron out the details later.
  4. Monte Cristos, Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame – Is it breakfast?  Brunch?  Lunch?  Dinner? The answer is a resounding “YES.”  This throw back sandwich bravely tackles three key tastes: salty, sweet and umami, in a pretty package with a side of syrup.

We will revisit these at the end of the year to tally up the score.  In the meantime, I’m looking to buy a red truck to launch my “Tomato Aspic-on-the-Go” business. Betty Crocker and I think that idea’s got some real legs.

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Laura Cook Newman

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

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