Top Food Trends for 2016 | What the Experts Say
Table Top Photo of Dinner at Elevage
If you follow me you will know by now that I’m pretty passionate about the subject matter of food. Maybe it’s because I have personal ties with the farming industry, maybe it’s because I am a self confessed former “healthy kid“(or chubby if we are just being honest). Whatever the reasons, this girl loves food. I’m always fascinated to observe the ebb and flow of certain trends within the food industry. As I’ve become more acquainted with the regions top Chefs, Restauranteurs, and Influencers in the industry I learn more about what goes into these changes and how to be more informed about how it ends up on the plate and where it’s inspiration originated from. Recently I sought out some of the regions most valued opinions on what’s  trending this year and now I’m bringing them to you. Here’s what the experts have to say about what to expect in 2016.

1. Eat Your Veggies
– Veggie Focused Menus
“As American consumers continue to develop deeper connections to their food and its sources, Sbraga anticipates more vegetable-focused menus will rise in prominence. “Our experience has shown that guests are willing to try new vegetables, especially if they’re prepared with the same level of care with which farmers grow and harvest the crops. Heritage crops are particularly popular; look for locally-focused restaurants to tout heirloom varieties of peas, turnips, and tomatoes.”
~ Chef Kevin Sbraga (Sbraga & Co)

Turnips by Sbraga & Co
Sbraga & Company

– Food Costs on the Rise
According to Restauranteur John Nagy of Eleven South, the cost of food rose 15% in the last year. To achieve more value on the plate the spotlight is turning more towards unique and sustainable vegetable crops.

Tuscan Sandwich by Eleven South
The Tuscan Sandwich from Eleven South Bistro & Bar

Urban Gardens “More and more local “urban” farms are cropping up (pun intended!) and serving their local area with specialty items (such as Congaree + Penn on the west side of Jacksonville and GYO Greens in Ponte Vedra), both of whom are examples of urban farm partners to Moxie and featured throughout our menus.”
~ Chef Tom Gray and Sarah Marie Johnston ( Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails) 

Chef Tom Gray
Photo by Agnes Lopez

2. Strong Restaurant Identity = Destination Dining
Signature Dishes
“Despite the desire for variety, it’s important to assure both new and loyal guests that they can expect some degree of consistency from one visit to the next. These dishes usually go beyond seasonal appeal, and touch on something that’s core to the restaurant’s identity. Take, for instance, our Hog & Hominy at Sbraga & Company. It’s our answer to the popularity of shrimp and grits in Northeast Florida.”
~ Chef Kevin Sbraga (Sbraga & Co)

Chef Kevin Sbraga
Chef Kevin Sbraga

Demand for more regional inspired fare
“Cocktails both modern and classic. Craft cocktail flavors representative of the region. Regional twists on classics. Craft soda’s are going to be huge for the consumer.”
~ Chef Scotty Schwartz (29 South)

“Southern-inspired cooking and recipes are very big. Our Chicken + Waffles is consistently one of our most-ordered entrees, as is our Pimento Cheese Toast, Crispy Chicken Livers, and Brunswick Stew, from our current menu. “

Pimento Cheese Toast from Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails
Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

3. Healthy = Happy

Increase Demand for More Health Conscience Dishes 
“Generally speaking the trend that we have seen the most is a move towards health consciousness. People want to know where their food comes from, eating locally produced and sustainably grown produce, clean flavors and gluten free options. “
~ Chef Sam and Kiley Efron ( Taverna) 

Beet Salad from Taverna
Beet Salad with Endive, Arugula, Beets, Orange Segments, and Marcona Almonds.
The Arugula comes from a local farmer named Freddie Bacon.
Chef Sam Efron

“As the owner of the “this chick” brand, our philosophy is to honor our guest’s choices and food belief systems.”
“We just need to serve whole(some) foods to our friends, family and clientele. Free of pesticides, GMO;s from truly clean soil.”
~ Chef Rosaria Cammarata Anderson (This Chick Can Cook)

Consumers Continue Interest in Food Sourcing 
 “Our guests (and the general public) continue to be interested in the sourcing of ingredients they purchase themselves to cook at home, and what is served at restaurants.  All of our major farm partners and artisan producers are listed on our menus and on our website:  Sourcing locally and from artisan producers is a huge part of our “full-circle approach”.”
~ Chef Tom Gray and Sarah Marie Johnston ( Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails) 

Micro Seasonal Menu Changes“It’s not just about what’s fresh this season anymore. Now, chefs have to ask themselves and their farm partners, what’s fresh this week? How can we showcase these specialty crops, which may only be available for a short window, in a way that will engage and excite our guests?” 
~ Chef Kevin Sbraga (Sbraga & Co) 

4. Different is Good 

” Ingredients that are slightly unusual vs. traditionally mainstream are becoming more in demand: unusual animal proteins (such as pigs ears, chicken livers, flank steak, etc. as seen on our menus at various times), and inventive vegan/vegetarian menu options (such as our Grilled BBQ Tempeh entree).”
~ Chef Tom Gray and Sarah Marie Johnston ( Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails) 

Crispy Chicken Livers from Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails
Crispy Chicken Livers, Hot Sauce & Blue Cheese
Photo by
Miguel Emmanuelli

Middle Eastern Food On Trend 
“After the Ottolenghi boost in middle eastern food popularity I thought it was a flash in the pan. Now more and more we are seeing Israeli and Arabic cuisine popping regularly up on the food scene. “
~ Chef Scotty Schwartz (29 South)

Falafel from Sbraga & Co
Sbraga & Company

5. Back to Basics
Kicking it Old School
“Look for iconic dishes to return with a twist. As for cocktails, Manhattans and Old Fashions rule the day. Bourbon leads the way, outpacing Vodka this year.”
~ John Nagy (Eleven South Bistro & Bar)

Old Fashioned Cocktail
An Old Fashioned from Elevage at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa
A Return to Product Driven Food Retail 

Remember the days when people went to a butcher for meat. A Baker for bread. A farmstead for produce. I predict these days are making a return. We have seen in the past decade a return to the farmstead but the old time butcher shop is making a comeback. The last time I was in Park City I visited a “Artisanal Butcher’s Shop”. Meats were cut to order as well as sausages and other charcuterie made onsite. If you wanted something special he would cut it or order it in for you. Too often we go to the supermarket and buy off the shelf instead of having something cut specifically for the use we intend. By having a relationship with the butcher the public can access all of those yummy things chefs have at their disposal.
~ Chef Scotty Schwartz (29 South)

Chef Scotty Schwartz

What’s your opinion? Weigh in on your top foodie trends in 2016 in the comments below!

Until then…

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy  West 

Amy West with John Nagy of Eleven South Bistro & Bar