Monday, January 07, 2008

Trendy Monday: The Best Lists of 2008 Food Trends

And welcome to the first edition of "new school" - my weekly look at what's new and interesting in the food world.

Could there be a better time to start a feature like this? Food sections the world over are bursting with annual lists of the hot new trends that are just sure to define our diets in 2008. I've read quite a few of them, and my two favorites are Baltimore Sun critic Elizabeth Large's posts about the 194 "hot or not" trends, as defined by the chefs of the American Culinary Federation, by way of the National Restaurant Association, and Epicurious editor-in-chief Tanya Steele's predictions for the 10 trends that will "take hold" in 2008.

Both lists give some love to "local" this or that and the word "organic" is, of course, featured prominently on both lists. But these lists transcend the zillions of more generic articles out there. Large's chefs' list is interesting because it doesn't just predict what'll be cool in 2008 - it looks at a huge number of trends (194, to be exact) and shows which chefs think are "hot", which are "passe" and which are basically mainstream ("perennial favorites"). Because it's a survey of a broad spectrum of chefs, what tops the list doesn't reflect the newest of the new and, as some commenters point out, there are sure to be regional differences in chef answers (the trendiness of Cuban food was cited as an example). But it's thought-provoking nonetheless.

Steele's list, on the other hand, drew my attention for the opposite reason. Where the ACFC list is all about generalism, this one, to its credit, doesn't try to be all-encompassing. The trends listed are narrow permutations of broad trends. For example, #1 "Farmers are the new celebrity chefs" is really a less broad, but deeper offshoot of the local food movement (#2 on the ACFC list).

Together, the lists give us a fine look at what 2008 will likely bring to our tables. To me, it looks good.

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