What are the key food trends in 2018?
We sit down with Stephen Lech, Executive Sous Chef, InterContinental Sydney
1. What do you see as the biggest trends in food and restaurants in 2018?
Social consciousness will continue to be a big one! More than ever, consumers want to know everything about what is in their food, where the produce has come from and how it has been prepared. Demand for raw foods, foods full of antioxidants, nutrient-dense food and foods beneficial to our health are all still very much on the rise as we increase our awareness.
The paddock to plate movement took off over the last few years and I suspect we’ll continue to see a focus on local, sustainable ingredients.
On the wider restaurant scene, progressive dining is gaining momentum. Guests are looking for a dining experience more so than a two-dimensional meal. For example at InterContinental Sydney we have started creating progressive experiences for events which move the guest from the 117 dining room up to the private rooftop terrace in Supper Club, which allows the movement and atmosphere to enhance the courses.
While Australia hasn’t typically cultivated a late-night dining culture, I do think this is something we will also start to see more of. We have bustling entertainment areas popping up which is creating post-event demand, and, as a result lighter dining options and meal periods will start to rise. We noticed that Supper Club, our private event space from 9pm-3am, attracts a lot of high-profile after-parties often wanting grazing tables, light canapes or food-based entertainment.
Lastly, with the explosion of social influencers, blogs and food artists on social media, we have seen a new shift on the presentation and interactivity of plating up; guests are starting to take a more active role in their dining experience. For example, inside 117 dining we love offering guests an interactive dessert to end the evening – our Head of Pastry, Simon Veauvy, was recently on Studio 10 showing off his nitrogen-infused chocolate piñata which has been increasingly popular for private events in 117 dining – guests love it.
2. How do you plan to adapt to these trends?
Knowing that social consciousness is continuing to prevail, our team know we have a responsibility to firstly understand everything we can about our produce and its origins. At 117 dining and Cafe Opera we connect the customer; we educate the team and encourage them to share the stories with our guests.
My team and I actively meet new suppliers for the best local produce and look for incredible, high-quality ingredients that will resonate with the guest – we narrow in our suppliers to ensure we can work in close proximity and foster a meaningful relationship. This is hugely important for us. For example, we know locally-sourced produce is important for our guests so we work closely with Pepe Saya and work as partners to host dinners, to get involved, share their passion and their story – it’s all about putting a face to the product. We get the chef in the room to rotate the room and speak face to face with our guests about the product.
The presentation of the food will always be a critical element to my team; we know people are eating with their eyes. So when we are working with traditional dishes, we look for new presentation to keep the favourites alive while offering something different. The technique and the cooking will always be the critical focus but we do need to adapt to the new demands of diners looking for a new flair – our Sous Chef, Luke Fernley, is incredible at plating 117 dining’s menu up as an art form with colour, texture and positioning his rare forte.
3. What foods are on trend at the moment?
Narrowing in on the regional producer has also had a great impact on sourcing the ingredients we know our guests are interested in – from varied breakfast cereals we make, to integrations with chia seeds (mini chia puddings are always popular!), to power mueslis, goji berries and activated nuts.
4. What foods are ‘out’?
Kale received a lot of attention over recent times, although I suspect this will be overtaken by other superfoods. Maybe swiss chard will be the next mover. Quinoa is still a great, healthy ingredient but it has been done to death. Time for amaranth and other power grains to take over!