With the closure of restaurants and a boom in home deliveries, 2020 has revolutionised our way of looking at food and has taken on a key role in terms of providing moments of joy and escapism, even when we’re obliged to stay at home. Meanwhile, this year is also continuing to define new trends in the world of catering that are destined to assert themselves and develop in the future as well. 2021 is turning out to be a year featuring experimentation with new flavours and revisiting traditional recipes, where the challenge is to regale emotions via evocative dishes that are fun, yet sustainable, in line with the new trends that are also making headway in the world of fine dining. Whether we’re talking about dining in or out, the development of innovative menus is witnessing a phase of increasingly distinctive and engaging gastronomic ideas.
Comfort food, food to warm the cockles of your heart!
Uncertainty and stress cause us to seek relaxation and a feeling of well-being, and in this sense, food takes on a fundamental role linked to consumers’ emotional health. This explains the increase in the comfort food phenomenon and a preference for dishes that fill us with nostalgia and for those dishes and aromas that reassure us, maybe reminding us of the past and able to evoke positive feelings linked to our childhood memories.
Comfort food has recently also been introduced to the most refined of cuisines and is expressed through the creation of menus designed to alleviate stress and lift our mood where the personal experience of the chef shines through and mingles with our own, transmitting emotion to the diner. In the United States, the National Restaurant Association has confirmed that almost a third of fine dining establishments have added comfort food to their menus. In Los Angeles, the Chinese-Peruvian restaurant, ‘Chifa,’ has chosen to interpret this concept with a pork-based dish, flavoured with ginger and black vinegar, which was traditionally prepared by Cantonese families to celebrate a birth, but taking it to a new level with the addition of ingredients such as quail’s eggs.
And now the fun is served!
From lollipops for adults, as seen on the menu at Midsummer House, with a mix of flavours such as strawberry, chilli and foie gras to the experimental cuisine of Gauthier in the United Kingdom, whose vegan restaurant offers a strawberry dessert garnished with a special kind of candy floss that, as if by magic, disappears! Nostalgic and evocative dishes are, at the same time, seasoned with surprise and fun as a response to the desire for relief and escape, which is expressed in the kitchen through the creation of playful dishes ready to take us back to carefree moments of childhood, bringing smiles and happiness to the table.
New sensorial adventures
There is a widespread desire among consumers to explore multisensory culinary experiences after a prolonged period of restrictions and to rediscover the pleasure of embarking on new flavour adventures. A desire that chefs are committed to satisfying by providing daring new recipes and revisiting traditional ones, whilst exploring new ingredients to offer a mix of sensations with a unique flavour.
In the Netherlands, the restaurant ‘Choux’ has found its key innovative element for a menu specially created for the reopening, by creating a sorbet which, thanks to a very special method, somehow manages to keep the aromas and bitter notes of the lilac plant intact. The Portuguese chef, José Avillez, has worked together with Christian Dior to create a multisensory menu based on the fragrances of the famous brand, for example by preparing a smoked prawn tartare inspired by the perfume ‘Oud Ispahan.’
Then there are restaurants which are going down the fermentation route, such as ‘Alchemist’ in Denmark, which is testing out various methods on a particular products such as mycelium. Fermentation is a process destined to be more and more appreciated and explored by chefs, and is one which customers are starting to feel more at home with, enjoying both the taste and the associated health benefits.
A focus on sustainability
Sustainability is undoubtedly a priority issue for chefs who, these days, are showing an increasingly creative spirit by offering flavours which satisfy the palate and, at the same time, respect the environment, opting for no waste recipes and products with low environmental impact which are organic, seasonal and local. Trends which, thanks to the growing sensitivity of people towards environmental and climate issues, will continue to play a leading role in the coming years and may well represent a key ingredient for the development of new projects in the world of catering.