Restaurants Will Serve More Local, Sustainable, Gluten-Free Food, Chefs Say

If the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2011” survey of more than 1,500 professional chefs is any indication, 2011 will be a very good year for people who eat against the grain. Local food, sustainable meat and seafood, healthier children’s meals, and gluten-free cuisine will be among the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2011.

Photo Credit: National Restaurant Association

The top ten menu trends this year are predicted to be:

  • Locally sourced meats and seafood
  • Sustainability as a culinary theme
  • Nutritious kids’ meals
  • “Hyper-local” items (such as items from restaurants with their own gardens)
  • Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Gluten-free/allergy-conscious items
  • Simple back-to-basics cuisine
  • Farm-branded ingredients

Other trends listed in the top twenty include organic produce, half-portions/smaller portions for a smaller price, nutrition/health, and more fruit and vegetable side items for children.

For people who eat gluten free, the predictions are especially promising. The vast majority of the sides and starches listed as “hot” by chefs are not only gluten free but also unrefined. The top 14 Sides/Starches include black/forbidden rice, quinoa, red rice, vegetable pickles, braised vegetables, steamed/grilled/roasted vegetables, buckwheat items, brown/wild rice, and mashed/pureed vegetables (e.g., potatoes, cauliflower, parsnip).

Fresh fruit desserts are listed number 7 in the Desserts category, and the news is even better in the Produce category, with three-quarters of chef respondents saying that locally grown produce and organic produce are both top trends. Other trends in the Produce section include using superfruits (e.g., acai, goji berry, mangosteen, purslane), exotic fruit (e.g., passion fruit, dragon fruit, paw paw, guava), pomegranates, heirloom beans, heirloom tomatoes, micro-vegetables/micro-greens, and fresh herbs. Grass-fed beef and free-range poultry/pork are other trends listed in the Main Dishes category.

The annual “What’s Hot” chef survey is one of the industry’s most anticipated and quoted culinary forecasts, largely due to the credibility of its respondents — professional chefs that work in some of the nation’s finest dining establishments and educate the next generation of chefs in culinary institutions. “The top trends identified by these culinary professionals for 2011 are reflecting larger societal trends, underscoring that American diners are becoming more and more interested in what’s on their plate. Sustainability and nutrition are becoming key themes in our nation’s nearly one million restaurants,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.

American Culinary Federation national president Michael Ty agrees. “Locally sourced food and a focus on sustainability is not just popular among certain segments of consumers anymore; it has become more mainstream. Diners are requesting to know where their food comes from, and are concerned with how their choices affect the world around us. Nutrition will continue to play a key role in 2011,” he says. “With the results from this survey of American Culinary Federation chefs, restaurants across America will be able to tailor their menus and better serve their guests.”


“What’s Hot in 2011” Social Media Release, National Restaurant Association, released December 1, 2010. View highlights of survey and video.

Melissa’s Comments:

I couldn’t be happier to report some good news in the area of food! As we the people have become more aware of the benefits of eating against the grain and begun to ask more questions and make more requests along these lines in restaurants, the top chefs in our country have picked up the message and are responding, planning to give us the kind of food we really want. I have already read about several new restaurants that are about to open in the town I am based in that are designed with these trends in mind. I can’t wait until they open up and it becomes even easier to eat delicious, healthy, gluten-free and grain-free meals when eating out.

Watch for restaurants following the trends listed here in your area, too. Of course, when you find restaurants offering delicious, fresh, local, gluten-free food, be sure to patronize them often, tip well, spread the word, and thank the chefs. That not only will help your health but will keep the against-the-grain movement for health going for everybody.

Copyright © 2011 Melissa Diane Smith

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