Experiments continue with food as new trends emerge

Tapping on hottest trends, dietary fads and ever-evolving cuisines, restaurants are taking a giant leap every now and then to keep the diners hooked, writes Chhavi Bhatia

The food industry in India is having its moment in the sun like never before. Donning an imperative cloak of entertainment, eating out has become a celebration in itself, no longer reserved only for special occasions. A well-travelled palate, easy disposable income, and an emergent desire to socialise over food has been a bonus for the burgeoning hospitality sector.

Tapping on hottest trends, dietary fads and ever-evolving cuisines, restaurants are taking a giant leap every now and then to keep the diners hooked. There is no better explanation for vegan food and plant-based meat soaring in popularity, as also for regional cuisines coming to the centre of the plate. These were in vogue in 2019, sharing space with mindful cooking and healthy eating.

Stepping into 2020, experiments with food will continue as new trends emerge and few old ones further grow on people. Let’s find out how the new year is spoiling us for choice:

Regional cuisine: It ruled menus and palate for the entire 2019,aptly bagging the top of the charts, and will remain on the upswing for this year too as chefs celebrate the diversity of Indian cuisine. “Chefs are taking this a step further by researching about cuisine that is region-specific. For instance, south Indian food has gone beyond the generic state specific meal.

The focus has now shifted to cuisine highlighting a particular cuisine. Be it a meal from Rayalseema that is marked by spiciness or the aromatic Chettinad cuisine, restaurants will serve and educate patrons about the uniqueness of different cuisines in 2020,” says Executive Chef of Intercontinental Mahabalipuram, Lawrence Amalraj. Vineet Manocha, senior vice-president, culinary, Lite Bite Foods agrees as he also bats for chefs drawing inspiration from desi street food.

“More and more chefs are finding a new sweetheart in regional street foods of India. Menus in the most popular restaurants will be curated based on desi flavours, be it small plates, mains or even dessert. The millennials, who are socially, financially and culturally independent embrace new flavours quickly, and are always keen to try something different. Hence, the chefs too are going an extra mile to evolve new regional dishes.”

Go Global: An avid traveller and self-confessed gastronome – that is an average Indian of today. He travels to exotic locales, sometimes holidaying only for food, and restaurants understand the need to satisfy a quasi-international palate.

“Pan Asian, Japanese, Mediterranean, European, and Asian cuisines – rise of sushi bars, gourmet ingredients and international flavours, Indian food industry is surely at its peak. Due to growing exposure of international cultures and lifestyles, Indians have started experimenting with food. Deep pockets mean they don’t mind spending a few extra bucks if they are being served an international experience within the country,” says Priyank Sukhija, founder, First Fiddle Restaurants.

He further gives insight into how the Pan-Asian cuisine will steadily take over the legacy of Indian-Chinese in. “With flavours that India relates to better, authentic street food from the East will also be trending in the future. Tier II and Tier III will be good markets for introducing Pan-Asian cuisine this year,” he says.

Agrees Chef Vaibhav Bhargav at Mic Drop, “Asian flavours are always closer to Indian taste buds and that’s why people want to try more south –East Asian countries food. People are opening new concepts like vegetarian Burmese food, Malaysian food and Vietnamese food because these cuisines have taste very similar to the Chinese and Thai cuisine we have grown up eating.”

Sustainability is the buzz word: Commercial kitchens worldwide are striving to become more sensitive towards the environment, as chefs adopt ecology-friendly habits like minimising waste in kitchens, using local produce among others. 2020 will only add to this impetus of conservation. “We encourage zero waste cooking in our kitchen. Our aim to make sure that discarded products can be used in new sustainable and creative ways to elevate every day dishes and delicacies,” says Sumit Sinha, Director, Food and Beverage, Crown Plaza Today, New Delhi, Okhla.

As part of its efforts, the hotel has also set up a bio methanation plant to convert waste food into bio gas, which can be used as fuel as well as manure in gardening purposes. “Our effort is to inculcate sustainable practices in our eco system, which start right from local sourcing, eco friendly approach, utilizing organic produce and so on,” he adds.

“There is a huge improvement in professional kitchens now more than anytime earlier on healthier, sustainable and mindful food and products. This year is going to build the same where more and more kitchens and chefs would focus more on these aspects and their own fitness,” says Corporate Chef at The Kimono Club Vikramjit Roy.

Large buffet spreads have become an alarming red flag for quiet sometime now for the colossal amount of wastage it generates. “The severity of food wastage is catching up as a trend with the chefs. There will be a growing trend to reduce food wastage as much as possible and develop recipes which can make peels delicious. The trend does not just revolve around Blissful food from waste but also cocktails and beverages using food waste, peels and ingredients like apple pulp, orange peels etc. ‘Blissful recipes’, if we can call it, will be a big trend in 2020,” informs Manocha.

No escaping healthy eating: The new-age diner won’t shy away from setting the record straight that eating out does not have to necessarily add to your girth or cholesterol. “Throwing in vegan and vegetarian eating, while he would happily dig their forks into locally sourced ingredients sans harmful chemicals, fermentation would make a debut at chefs’ hands. Different types of fermentation would make a greater appearance in dishes of restaurants particularly lacto-fermentation and acetic-fermentation. This not only helps to produce probiotics, but also helps neutralise anti nutrients and increases vitamins and minerals in food which helps them absorb better. One of the key needs of today’s day and age is better digestion and metabolism, and fermentation helps to aid both these causes very well,” feels Roy.

“The trend is rising around fermentation which is good for gut. We have initiated a brand which is called “All Good Deli” which is all about health and good for gut ingredients,” Manocha shares. Kombucha, fermented dairy, dairy free food etc are hugely popular now. Yoghurts with almond milk or soy milk, tofu, kefir etc. in various flavour combinations will pick up traction. 

Cloud Kitchens: These are god sent for the corporate slave who, after slogging for hours in the office, and battling serpentine queues of traffic, has neither the energy nor the desire to cook. And also a blessing for home chefs who want to showcase their talent without the investment of a restaurant.

“The neighbourhood ‘foodprenuer’, running a small set up is the go to person for providing fresh, hygienic food that also gives the feel of ‘ghar ka khana’. It is a win-win for those running it and the end consumer,” Bhargav states. “Food delivery is showing an upward movement, thus giving rise to more cloud kitchens which are run by home chefs. Though the customer has to eat food from a commercial kitchen, they prefer if it is managed by a home chef,” says Vineet.