Food’s Future: Alternative Seafood, Cooking at Home, Says Panel

Food’s Future: Alternative Seafood, Cooking at Home, Says Panel

Plant-based foods, untapped aquatic species, and a redefinition of cooking itself are among trends to watch, according to a panel of food, drink, and media experts who took part in the third-annual “The Next Big Bite: How We Will Eat & Drink,” event on Oct. 16 at the Institute of Culinary Education at Brookfield Place in New York City. The event was hosted by Les Dames d’Escoffier New York, a professional women’s culinary organization with members who are leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality.   

Dana Cowin, DBC Creative, host of podcast Speaking Broadly on Heritage Radio Network, and former editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, moderated a panel that included: Melissa Clark, The New York Times food columnist and cookbook author; Kerry Heffernan, executive chef, Grand Banks restaurant, NYC; Padma Lakshmi, co-host of “Top Chef,” actress, and author; Pascaline Lepeltier, MS, instructor, Court of Master Sommeliers at the International Culinary Center, master sommelier, and author; Missy Robbins, chef/owner, Lilia Restaurant, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Susan Ungaro, president of The James Beard Foundation.

The panel discussed food’s future in the world and at home. Global migration influences food with flavors co-mingling in delicious and exciting ways, noted Padma Lakshmi. “Foods will begin to be post-ethnic, it will be more about the ingredients.” 

Lakshmi went on to discuss the role of television and social media in food awareness, especially among young audiences, and recounted her experiences in remote parts of the world where children knew “Top Chef.” “Kids are more aware of food at a young age,” she said, adding that engaging them in cooking and passing recipes down is important to food’s future. “Home ec should be brought back [in school curriculum],” she asserted.

Melissa Clark, who recently authored the cookbook, “Dinner: Changing the Game,” agreed. “The future of food is cooking. Getting people excited about cooking,” she said. Clark explained that it was time to expand the notion of what cooking is, and evolve dinner beyond the 1950s plate of protein, starch, and vegetable. “People are afraid to call toast and peanut butter dinner, even if they made the bread,” she said.

Panelists also explored and debated how we will eat at restaurants, how business will change, and how the food community will embrace sustainability. 

Robbins and Ungaro discussed the casualization of food and dining that is prevalent in restaurants (a rise in “fine casual,” said Ungaro) as well as staff happiness growing in importance to restaurateurs much more than in years past.

Discussing what will be on future plates, Heffernan noted, “We will have things we can eat from the ocean or fresh water, but we’ll have to think differently.” He predicted a growing U.S. movement toward nontraditional protein. 

Here are food trends to watch, according to the panel:

  • Vegetables and plant-based foods. Stem to stalk is the new nose to tail. “Wasting food is going to become like not buckling up,” predicted Ungaro.
  • Untapped resources of the ocean like algae or dogfish. “Dogfish is very plentiful and now we’re sending it to the U.K. because they know if makes good fish and chips. People here don’t understand that it’s a great resource,” said Heffernan.
  • Increased interest in the origins, content, and production methods of wine and spirits. “We can know what we eat, but we don’t always know what we drink,” noted Lepeltier, who sees natural wines as a trending category, especially those from Croatia and Georgia.
  • Demand for healthier fare will have chefs rethinking traditional favorites. “We’re going to see a trend toward healthier, but with balance,” said Robbins, who created her restaurant with a health-oriented menu in mind. “People will give themselves the authority to indulge when they want to.”
  • More foods to watch: seaweed; beans, pulses, and legumes; oysters; and hemp.