bits and bites

Chef Talk: Food Trends to Watch

By Kelley Plasterer | January 18, 2017
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What’s new in food this year? From restaurant fads and the latest health crazes to cuisines on the comeback, we consulted the 2016 Google Food Trends report—measuring which cuisines people were searching for on Google—and combined this data with opinions from some top chefs in Silicon Valley. Here are a few food trends to keep your eye on for 2017.

Where’s the Beef?

Plant proteins aren’t just for vegetarians anymore. The Impossible Burger, hailed as the plant-based burger that “bleeds,” was adopted by two San Francisco restaurants in 2016, with more to come. The idea is to create the same flavor of a beef hamburger without the environmental repercussions from meat production. Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, believes that “people don’t want to eat a burger from cows because it is from cows, they just love the taste. We make it so they don’t have to choose.” Also look out for the Beyond Meat burger, being introduced in restaurant chains in the South Bay.

Restaurants to try: Cockscomb, San Francisco; Jardinière, San Francisco; Veggie Grill, San Jose & Mountain View

Nutrition-Conscious Dining

Functional food is nothing new, but increasingly there is a demand for food that helps solve specific ailments, from cancer to depression. At True Foods Kitchen, co-founder Dr. Andrew Weil has built a wildly popular family of restaurants on the belief that a natural anti-inflammatory diet helps to protect against diseases caused by chronic inflammation. “Food should taste great, look great and be healthy for you. And, you should feel good when you eat it,” says Weil.

Restaurants to try: True Food Kitchen, Palo Alto; LYFE Kitchen, Palo Alto

The Asian-Inspired Soup Pho-nomenon

One of the biggest trends is preparing and eating hearty broth soups, such as phô and ramen. As Google Trends reported, the fame of phô has increased every year for the past decade, rising 11% year-over-year for the last three years. “Americans are turning to food to experience new cultures—whether they’re eating the dishes themselves or watching others,” says the report. Look out for more noodle bowls and at-home Asian cooking.

Restaurants to try: Asian Box, Palo Alto; Santouka, San Jose

Open-Kitchen Cooking

Chefs in fine dining are returning to humans’ primitive roots by playing more with flame. Ancient styles of wood-fire cooking are making a comeback in dining experiences. “Open-flame preparation gives everything a rustic twist,” says Rodrigo Salvador, the chef at Oak & Rye in Los Gatos. “It’s about simpler ingredients with more flavor.”

Restaurants to try: Oak & Rye, Los Gatos; Madera, Menlo Park

Sustainable Seafood

In order to protect our oceans and maintain the longevity of its inhabitants, consumers are taking care to choose sustainable seafood options: fish that is harvested or farmed sustainably. As diners are asking about where their seafood came from, restaurants are offering more sustainable choices. “We are eating species out of the oceans at an incredible rate—and extinction is forever,” says Sheila Bowman, manager of culinary and strategic initiatives for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. As of January 1, 2017, the US government has begun to enforce compliance regulations on international seafood imports for the first time, as part of an effort to cut down on seafood fraud and overfishing.

Not sure what to look for? Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, which categorizes seafood sustainability with the labels “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid.”

Restaurants to try: Flea Street Café, Menlo Park; LB Steak, Menlo Park & Santa Clara

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