While the globe-trotting star chefs we see hosting symposiums and delivering Google Talks are the current thought-leaders of the culinary world, it’s the young cooks in the kitchen who represent the future of food. Unlike their forbears, who often toiled for years in relative obscurity, today’s up-and-comers are part of a hyper-connected restaurant world where they are constantly engaged with new products and ideas.
On June 15, Imbibe & Inspire and Chicago’s Grace will gather together chefs de cuisine from some of the country’s most ambitious restaurants prepare a multicourse dinner as representatives of the future of American food. The 11 chefs—who represents kitchens like including Meadowood, Qui, and Manresa—will each present a dish, but the gathering will also be an opportunity to discuss where the restaurant world (and the food system at large ) is heading.
To tap into this brain trust of ambitious up-and-comers, we presented the CDCs with one question: What do you think the future holds for food in America?
From predictions about the evolution of Mexican cooking in the U.S., to thoughts on the rise of culinary collaboration, here’s what they had to say:
Qui (Austin, TX)
“To me, the next big thing in food is not an ingredient or a style of cuisine, but a concept: Collaboration is the future of food. From issues of sustainability and nutrition, to the creative process; from symposiums like MAD and Mesamerica to projects like Bullipedia, I think we are realizing as a chef community that we can achieve so much more together than apart. I think it’s going to become less about ‘star chefs’ and more about teams, and the dialogue they want to have with their guests and their communities.”
The Restaurant @ Meadowood (St. Helena, CA)
McCrady’s (Charleston, SC)
“[I anticipate a] repurposing the tasting menu philosophy. Giving the diners the option to enjoy multiple courses while still giving them opportunity to choose various dishes within each course.”
Grace (Chicago, IL)
“I’ve been very excited about Mexican food for some time now. It’s always been seen as a very rustic cuisine, but a recent interest in foods from areas like the Yucatan has been very exciting to watch. Of course, with all that investment and excitement comes refinement. It’s so interesting to me to me to see these rustic flavors and technique being turned into something more refined. I’m so excited to be a part of this.”
Fork (Philadelphia, PA)
“I still think that the next big thing is going to be smaller scale farms and farmers. We have seen an increase in the availability of products to higher-end restaurants, but I think that the next big movement is going to be bringing these ingredients to the general public through grocery stores, etc. The products from these smaller farms are far superior.”
Elements (Princeton, NJ)
“Pretty near impossible question to answer but if pressed I would go towards the idea of single or two ingredients per dish. Not necessarily simplicity, but more about how you can have as much flavor packed into the product and dish without putting so many things on the plate. This can be achieved in many ways—cultivation of ingredient, cooking technique, etc. With cultivation, my guess is we are going to see people highlighting more about how a product is raised and grown and why it makes that product special.”
Reef (Houston, TX)
“Filipino food. I think it’s an underrated cuisine. There’s a huge Filipino community in my home town Winnipeg, so I’ve seen a little bit of it. Guys like Paul Qui in Austin and Gabe Medina at Sushi Soma in Houston are going to open everyone’s eyes to it.”
Blackbird (Chicago, IL)
“I think/hope the next big thing in food is a focus on quality ingredients and making them more accessible. It has to start from from the top, with the farmers of produce, meat, dairy, and grain, then trickle down to all facets of the food industry. Restaurants will be able to transform product less, resulting in simpler and more delicious food. Home consumers will see the benefits by being able to more easily purchase foods that are healthier and more flavorful, making the healthier choice the easier choice. This practice is seen much more in Europe and Asia; it is definitely already established here and I’m very excited to see it take a much stronger hold in the U.S.”
Manresa (Los Gatos, CA)
“The collaboration and support of young farmers and the movement to continue the legacy of growing food well. Redefining what that means exactly and moving beyond the coined ‘farm to table’ [cliche]—essentially, allowing product to dictate the direction of cuisine. Whether it be vegetable or animal husbandry farming, the acceptance and appreciation of variance by chefs [is also something on the horizon]—moving away from systems structured like commodity farming, which aim to produce a consistent product above all, and letting terroir and technique as well as unpredictable forces such as the weather influence the ever-changing result. I think we are moving in a direction where that is exciting instead of a hindrance. There will be more of an appreciation for vintages of food and seasons, much like we revere wine.” (Photo: Eric Wolfinger)
“I believe that there will not be a focus on a specific ingredient or region but rather a movement to go back to the classics. I think that the cuisine of a city or countryside will become more defined and more reflective of the population that lives there.”
“Imbibe and Inspire: The Future of American Food” takes place at the Grace in Chicago on Sunday, June 15. $375 per person; call 312-234-9494 for reservations.
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