Who better than Kristine Kidd, former food editor at Bon Appétit magazine for 20 years, to tell us what’s hot in the culinary world?
As the former food trends expert at the magazine, she collaborated with celebrity chefs and food writers including Thomas Keller, Suzanne Goin, and Nigella Lawson, helping them shape stories and recipes for the magazine. The dishes she created often appeared on the cover.
On a recent teleconference call through the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Kidd told us first how she keeps up with trends, then detailed what she sees.
To keep up, she’s an exhaustive researcher. She reads:
- Magazines on food, including those from England, Australia and New Zealand
- Food sections of major American newspapers
- The business and lifestyles sections of newspapers and newsweeklies
- And newsletters from Jessica’s Biscuit, cooking stores, and those from supermarkets and food industries.
Then she leaves her computer and desk. She goes to the cookbook table at her local Barnes & Noble; persuses what’s hot on Amazon; talks to food-obsessed friends; and shops at regular and specialty food markets, cooking stores, and farmers’ markets. She also goes to industry conferences.
She compiles all her notes, printouts, and clippings in a letter-size file box on her desk to spark ideas for new projects.
The barometer for what’s going on with cooking and food, she said, is yourself. As food writers, she said we face the same challenges as other cooks. Here are the four broad trends she listed:
1. Political events. War, the economy, budget concerns and our over-busy lives have led to quick, easy and casual meals on weeknights. On weekends, we focus on back-to-scratch and learning the basics, particularly new cooks. We cook more, we cook together, we go for comfort and braises.
2. Regard for the environment. Local, sustainable and organic are the keywords here. There’s an emphasis on produce as the star of the meal. Farmers’ markets have influenced seasonality, organic meats, and the rise of meatless meals. We’re confused about which seafood is okay to eat (See the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch for guidance). Artisanal products are more available than ever, particularly salts, condiments, cheeses, chocolate and salumi.
3. Focus on health. We want humanely raised meats and we’ve returned to foods previously shunned because of their fat content, particularly eggs and nuts. We’re into whole grains, multi grains, legumes, and specialty diets, especially gluten-free. We try for smaller portions. When we eat dessert, we still like our comfort food, but we’re including more produce.
4. World cuisines at restaurants. Chefs are fascinated by Southeast Asian foods, particularly Vietnamese and Indian. They still love Mediterranean but are including more Turkish and Latin foods. The move is to more casual, less expensive foods, and food carts and street food compete with restaurant dollars. And international flavors influence home cooks as well.
Food writers should focus on what intrigues and excites them, she concluded. She advised food writers to experiment, and write a high quality recipe.
p.s. If you’re curious about the new editor of Bon Appetit, see this profile of Adam Rapoport in the New York Times.