Trending: Chefs Foresee Pickling, Nano Menus, More Independent Restaurants

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For chefs across metro Detroit, using locally sourced and seasonal products is more than a trend — it’s their business. The movement follows the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot culinary forecast for 2014.

“To me, providing local, sustainable food is more of a lifestyle than it is a trend for restaurants,” says Doug Hewitt, executive chef at Terry B’s Restaurant and Bar in Dexter. “You have to do a lot of research and find farmers that are willing to work with you. It takes a lot of effort.”

That’s not to say there aren’t culinary trends for restaurants using locally sourced products, however. Hewitt expects to see a boom in pickling, fruit confit, and other forms of food preservation in restaurants this winter. At Terry B’s, for instance, kimchi (a traditional Korean fermented side dish), pickled cherries, and summer pepper jelly will make appearances on the menu over the next few months, Hewitt says.

“If a farmer has 500 pounds of summer peppers at the end of the season, I try to buy as many of those as I can and preserve them,” Hewitt says. “So I’m not just using summer vegetables in the summer time, I’m also using them in February and January. I think it’s economical from a business standpoint as well.

“There’s some heavier purchasing when the seasons are at their peak, but you can subsidize that all through the year.”

Similarly, James Rigato, executive chef at The Root Restaurant and Bar in White Lake, doesn’t like to label local sourcing as a trend, because it’s more of a calibration, he says. And stemming from that calibration he says is the fact that more and more people prefer to support local restaurants.

“We’re seeing a lot of independent restaurants moving into former corporate restaurants,” Rigato says. “It reminds me of hermit crabs taking over other crabs’ shells. If somebody’s going to spend $100, they don’t want to go to a (franchise like) Bennigan’s or Red Lobster, they want (to patronize) independent restaurants.”

Rigato also foresees that restaurants may take a cue from nano-brewing, where breweries create extremely small batches of rotating, seasonal brews. He references Torino in Ferndale, where a single prix-fixe tasting menu changes weekly based on seasonal and local products. “That’s something that Michigan hasn’t had in a long time, if ever. And I think that that’s a cool indicator of what could happen in the future. I enjoy smaller menus and smaller selections — it allows the chefs to create and takes away the burden of variety,” he says.

Overall, the nearly 1,300 chefs who participated in the national survey appear to agree that local sourcing isn’t just a passing fad. When asked what current food trends will be the hottest menu trends in 10 years, environmental sustainability and local sourcing topped the list.

According to the national forecast, the top 10 food trends for 2014 include:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Environmental sustainability
  4. Healthy kids’ meals
  5. Gluten-free cuisine
  6. Hyper-local sourcing, such as restaurant gardens
  7. Children’s nutrition
  8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta, quinoa, rice, buckwheat
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Farm/estate branded items

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