Food Trends: What's In, What's Out for 2009

In 2008, many non-foodies became passionate and opinionated about dinner. Restaurant menus features long explanations about the care and preparation of their entrees, and home cooks opted for expensive local organic produce (even as the economy plummeted). Rampant job-losses prompted Americans to get reacquainted with their kitchens.

I met with three food professionals to reflect on the culinary trends of 2008, and make predictions for 2009:
  • Fabio Parasecoli, a global culinary consultant and adjunct professor of Food Studies at New York University,
  • Iri Greco, a culinary producer and stylist, and
  • Andrew Burman, freelance cook, food stylist and cooking teacher.

2008 Trends

1. Master Mixology and Artisinal Bartenders
Greco was a fan of 2008's most intoxicating trend: master mixology and artisanal bartenders. Mixology returned to the forefront as respectable culinary pursuit, and bartenders as keepers of a centuries-old craft. Bartending schools gained popularity and revived Old World recipes to remind us of the social potency of a well-crafted cocktail.

2. Offal
Offal is the internal organs of an animal that are typically discarded after butchering, or historically enjoyed by those who cannot enjoy the more expensive muscle meat. Though their value varies from culture to culture (one man's foie gras is another man's chopped liver), Greco saw a resurgence in this trend in 2008.

The predictable thrift of 2009 will likely take this trend from restaurants to home kitchens, and butchers will be handling more requests for sweet breads, calf's heart and cock's combs.

3. Pretention
Parasecoli and Greco are eager to bid adieu to 2008's food pretentions. Greco is particular tired of "uber chic food finds like 18 kinds of exotic sea salts." The experts predict these non-necessities will be displaced in '09. Parasecoli is looking forward to "More creativity that does not need to become outlandishness."

4. Small Plates
Burman loved 2008's small plates and tasting menus. "Restaurants like Per Se, Ko, Degustation, have changed small plates from tapas into haute cuisine."

He believes this trend will continue into 2009. "When patrons enjoy five to 10 different tastes, they are more satisfied. I think this will make for more interesting dishes, and more adventurous cooks."

2009 Predictions

1. Cooking at Home
"With the current economic environment weighing heavily on consumers, I predict a move back towards the home-centered meal," says Greco, who is personally looking forward to "cooking more for the people I truly want to feed." Parasecoli regrets "not having taken the time to share good food with good friends more often!" in 2008, and is committed to making a change for '09.

2. Smoking, Preserving, Curing
Greco predicts a return to "smoking, preserving, curing ... old school techniques and mentality." Noting a pervasive Do-It-Yourself mentality in interior design, craft and fashion, she predicts this will extend to heritage cooking techniques as well.

3. Local Food Tourism
In 2008, Burman toured the greater New York City area with friends and colleagues in search of food "which made for better friends and better adventures." Instead of traveling abroad, why not enjoy the travel-at-home experience by touring an immigrant neighborhood in your closest big city? The most accessible food adventure might be in your backyard.

4. Purveyor Relationships
Burman also predicts that consumers will reconnect with the people who are responsible for the food they eat, whether it's the local butcher or restaurant owner. "If people cook, I want them to know where there food comes from, and take an active role in food decisions. And if they're not cooking, they should know who makes the food they eat, know the owner or who answers the phone. Food is personal, and should be treated that way."

5 . Reconnect With the Dishes You Forgot You Love
Though Parasecoli cooks daily, he complains that he "always ends up doing the same stuff. I want to expand my repertoire! Or at least rediscover recipes that I've learned to make in my travels and I have not done in years!"

In 2009, home cooks will be taking out the old recipe books and reconnecting with the comfort, familiarity and soothing nature of the old favorites they forgot they loved.



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