Foodie Forecast: Culinary Trends for 2016

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

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New year, new trends on the horizon! With an ever-expanding palate for all things epicurean, Thursday Life checks in with a few of our local chefs and caterers for their thoughts.

Molecular Gastronomy


Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards patrons were introduced several years ago by the Half Moon Hotel culinary team to playful foams, powders and jellies in lieu of more traditional textures — molecular gastronomy — a culinary technique combining the knowledge of scientific chemicals with food ingredients to create various versions of foods or cuisine. Although making waves across the globe for a few years now, Caribbean Broilers Group head chef Gairy Bowes and caterer Charissa Henry forecast a splash on the local scene in 2016!


"I definitely want to look into molecular gastronomy. It’s a method that, while drastically changing the texture of the food, does not impact the flavour. There’s a lot to play with there, like spherification, gelification and emulsification; it’s something that I’m really looking forward to seeing take off in Jamaica." — Charissa Henry


Small Plates


According to chef Gairy Bowes, small plates are big business! Serving sizes that fall somewhere between an entrée and an appetiser are becoming more in-demand, and local chefs and caterers are taking note.


"People are craving high-quality meals rather than quantity," says Bowes. An opinion shared by From Thought to Finish front woman Jacqui Tyson.


"It’s all about presentation this year. We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to rethinking things like tablescapes and serving sizes. We are now caught between the present and the future, in terms of visual aesthetic and style, and unusual plate shapes are looking more attractive," Tyson tells Thursday Life. "In light of this I anticipate a shift in portions; for example, rather than presenting the entire meal on one plate we’ll be doing things like breaking it up into small courses which, when combined, will make a complete and balanced meal with a more uncluttered feel. "


Food Trucks


As our tastes evolve, so too will our methods of consumption. The concept of mobile cuisine is nothing new, particularly on the global stage, and with the advent of social media it has become increasingly easier to share up-to-the-minute updates with one’s audience. The rise in the popularity of mobile eateries can in a sense be attributed to the ease with which operators can share their location as they move from one spot to the next. Charissa Henry foresees a growth in numbers for food trucks on the local scene, and has every intention of staying ahead of the game.


"I love food trucks, and I’ve been thinking of joining forces with one of them and doing a few pop-up shops over the course of the year. I just know they are really going to be big locally in 2016."




Open-fire Cooking


If you can’t stand the heat, take it outside! Cooking over an open fire is no longer just for backyard barbecues, says self-proclaimed pyro, award-winning chef Gariel Ferguson, excited that his preferred method of food preparation has started to catch on.


"People seem to be moving more towards using natural woods and coal fires instead of stove-top cooking, and from where I sit this is a more beneficial method of food preparation," Ferguson tells Thursday Life. "I think it kind of brings everything closer to nature and further away from the implications of consuming processed foods, with the added bonus of extracting extraordinary tastes and natural flavours rather than using artificial enhancers. You just can’t duplicate that open-fire taste," he adds.


With seafood and pizza among the exciting, non-traditional menu items Ferguson will be incorporating into his open-fire dishes this year, it stands to reason that where there’s smoke there just might be a vastly superior dining experience!




Fruity Infusions


Michele Williams of Moveable Feast Caterers has her sights set on more fruitful horizons, predicting an upsurge in the use of fruit to enhance traditionally savoury dishes.


"People are starting to think outside of the box when it comes to food. Over the festive season we experimented with honey-glazed ham and apricots, and were very pleased with the results. For Shaggy and Friends we combined spicy grilled chicken with a tamarind dipping sauce. Combining a little sweetness with a little spice can go a long way. I would highly recommend things like grilled starfruit, and grilled beef or pork tenderloin with plums and peaches. The trick is to use indigenous fruits that are sweet, to balance the salty flavours you typically find in meats."


Ferguson is among those looking forward to a fruit explosion. "I see a re-emergence of our local guavas in dishes that blend sweet and savoury flavours, like roasted guavas with pork and beef in the near future. I also expect to see more things like craft sodas and carbonated beverages that infuse herbs like rosemary and basil with fruity aromatics. We’re going to really be pushing the envelope this year!"


Simple and Healthy


Ashebre culinary artiste Oji Jaja reckons "food simplicity and healthy food options will be the focus this year, plus the use of fresh ingredients".




Training, Training & More Training...


Dennis McIntosh, executive chef at the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, sees the need for " more training, mentoring and exposing our local chefs to world standards in 2016".


McIntosh also sees an increase in destination weddings and culinary foodie tours, which he says "will allow chefs to highlight fresh, local seasonal products. Indeed, global flavours on local plates are the expectations of today’s guests. That said, chefs also need to be au fait with the culinary requirements of the modern-day traveller".


McIntosh also forecasts an increase in ã  la carte dining.


Grilled Tacos... Indian Food & Less Sugar


Stefan Spath, corporate executive chef, Couples Resorts, Jamaica


"Tacos, the healthy ones that are grilled fish or chicken (soft shell - flour tortillas) with lots of fresh lime, chipotle sauce and lots of fresh tomatoes / lettuce, " shares Spath. Fresh local ingredients are still as hot as ever as they come with no preservatives / additives.


What else?


Indian food with its great flavours and spices. Spath suggests real curry with individual spices rather than curry powder.


Less sugar in your food, more and more veggies and vegetable-based diets


Anything grilled or roasted / rustic food with good natural flavours


Good strong coffee and espresso — small private coffee roasters


Fine dining becoming more and more casual and informal; interpret this to mean high quality without the fuss.




Chicken...


Jamaica’s love affair with chicken will continue in 2016. Why? Let’s just say we consumed a whopping 12 million kilos for the month of December alone.


Home-Grown Ingredients


The current health craze is set to continue come 2016. With the ‘farm-totable’ and ‘eat local’ movements increasing in popularity, more chefs are either working directly with farmers to source fresh, natural ingredients, or have decided to simply grow their own. Lorraine Fung – of Catering by Lorraine projects that dishes promoting healthy diets will be on the rise. "Jamaica lends itself to natural foods, grains, and herbs.


Based on our climate, we can work with incorporating peas and greens with other readily available vegetable options in our meals. There is a greater emphasis now on not only eating local, but growing your own ingredients. A lot of people are venturing into home gardening at the moment," Fung, who is currently making plans to improve her own home garden - tells Thursday Life. Lisa-Gaye Chin, proprietor of Fromage Gourmet Market, concurs.


"Healthy eating is on most Jamaicans’ minds these days. I foresee that veggie-based food will be a major focus for 2016," she says Chef Celeste Gordon owner of Whip it Up Catering Company In terms of ingredients, the ‘farm to table’ concept will prevail. People appreciate getting naturally grown, ripened properly items to eat. It makes a world of difference to the food’s appearance and flavor when you are eating the ingredients in their prime.


Brunch is Back!


The ‘meal between meals’ is no longer just an option for special occasions, says Chin, who forsees a spike in numbers for the brunch movement, due in part to the creativity that serving a meal between breakfast and dinner facilitates. "Brunch seems to be popular at the moment, and I think this will continue into the New Year, and the bigger and more over-the-top, the better. Look out for the rise of specialties like lobster rolls and sliders, as well as small nosh menus," she adds.


Goat Cheese


With a keen eye for flavourful fusions, award-winning caterer supreme Allison Porter-Smalling of Ally’s Kitchen anticipates an upsurge in the demand for alternative cheeses.


"Goat cheese is one ingredient that has become a new trend of mine," said Porter-Smalling. "Although it has become a lot more common in grocery stores, the cheese itself is not as common as mozzarella. The first time I encountered a Mont Chèvre brand goat cheese it had cranberries in it and I found the cranberries brought the fruitiness and the goat cheese itself brought out the tartness. To my surprise, they both worked well together." Having used goat cheese as a substitute in pastas, salads, and even macaroni and cheese, she highly recommends it as an option for consumers looking for healthier alternatives.


Cured Meats


Having paid attention to the bacon boom of 2015, enterprising foodie Simon Levy and his business partner Darshan Young turn their focus to creating smoked, Italian-inspired, flavourinfused cured meats. "I cured a lot of ham over the holidays, and coming into the New Year, I’ll be doing a lot more bacons and pancettas, with flavour infusions like five-spice and honey," Levy tells Thursday Life "So far, personally, I’ve been using them in pastas and stews among other dishes, and what you find happening is that there is need for less ingredients, because the meats are full-flavoured and better tasting in and of themselves".


Fusion and Ethnic Exploration


Culinary artist-on-the-rise Jordan Chuck of J Jakes Catering spots fusion on the horizon... be it of cuisines or of traditionally contrasting flavours, it’s all in the mix! "A few trends I think will pop up or become more prevalent in 2016 are savoury and sweet fusions, like bacon jam, and candied ham. As well as herbal infusions like compound butters, and beverages such as tarragon and lemon iced teas," Chuck tells Thursday Life.


"Spice is also going to be big; peppers from all over the world are being explored with Jamaican cuisine or vice versa. I for one will continue to infuse Scotch bonnet peppers into my sushi or Asianinspired dishes." Chuck also predicts a growth in all things exotic, and artisanal, an opinion shared by award-winning caterer Alexa von Strolley, of Tooksie Kay Catering. "I think people are interested in culinary excursions right now and are trying to learn and understand new cultures through food. They want to step outside of the norm and let their curiosity roam and be fulfilled."


Intimate Dinners


Chef Celeste Gordon forecasts a rise in food consumption in more snug settings. "I think people will be doing more plated intimate dinners. They want to enjoy food experiences with a closer group of friends/family. This way, it can be more about the plating/presentation of the food, trying more exotic ingredients, and focusing on the subtleties of the food. This also allows chefs to show off their creative side a whole lot more."


 

    

         


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