New Year, New Menu: 5 Restaurant Trends to Embrace in 2017

Depending on who you ask, restaurant trends in 2017 will vary as much as the weather. From lacto-fermented vegetables to Filipino food, every chef has their own opinion on what will be trendy over the upcoming year. A few chefs, who have their eyes on what their peers are up to and what's already starting to gain momentum, shared their thoughts. Here are five trends to look out for in 2017.

1. Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

Executive chef Marcus Monteiro of Toronto's hot spot Brassaii says he will be lacto-fermenting his own vegetables, which is a process that consists of mixing salt and water to ferment vegetables for three to 13 days. He's currently testing the idea with a dish that consists of lacto-fermented beets, whipped sheep's milk ricotta, candied pistachios, and maple cider foam. So why the interest in lacto-fermentation now? "Guests are becoming more and more interested in trying new and unconventional dishes, and I see chefs using other root vegetables to take the place of potatoes, as well as replacing refined sodium with kelp," says Monteiro. "It's an exciting time to be a chef and get the opportunity to really experiment with flavors and textures."

Similarly, tea sommelier and former nurse Carol Mark of Toronto is creating a fermented tea salad that's made by soaking organic tea leaves in brine, and then fermenting them with garlic, seasoning, and a second brining. According to Mark, "The gut is the key target in boosting one's immune system, so we are turning back to the way our ancestors ate and what worked for them." She adds, "This tea salad was invented centuries ago in Burma, where fermentation was used to preserve foods." Her salad is based on a recipe for laphet, and includes garlic, lemon juice, fish sauce, fried yellow chickpeas, Napa cabbage, roasted peanuts, and sesame seeds.

2. Wood-Fired Dishes

Chefs have started to turn back to wood-fired dishes, and chef Beau MacMillan of Sanctuary Resort and Spa on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona, expects this trend to continue into 2017. "I've seen a lot of wood-fired ovens that aren't your typical, pizza-style oven lately, and I love it," he says. "I have a friend who just opened a restaurant in San Diego and cooks on different types of wood, and it's really incredible. I've always been a fan of that style of cooking—not only for the aromas, but for the smoky, charred flavors it can produce."

3. Secondary Cuts

Both Monteiro and Dave Mottershall, chef and owner of Toronto's Loka, see 2017 as the year for secondary cuts of meat. "Guests are more curious with new cuts of meat and this opens new opportunities for restaurants who buy whole animals or secondary cuts," says Mottershall. He adds, "It's not unusual for us to serve lamb or venison neck, and guests are willing to try it for the first time, understanding it shouldn't be something to be discarded." Recently, guests at Loka have been able to enjoy venison necks with gooseberry ramp marmalade, topped with a crisp, deep fried lichen.

4. Filipino Fare

Chinese, Thai, and Korean food have become popular across North America, but now Filipino food is making its way into the spotlight. Ricky Casipe, head chef at Hawthorne Food & Drink in Toronto, says it's a great time to be a young Filipino chef. "I have experienced and been exposed to traditional Filipino food, but not long enough that I am tied to tradition and authenticity," he says. "Some may see it as bastardizing a culture's food, but I see it as highlighting it in a manner that is comfortable to your demographic." At Hawthorne, he does this by offering his take on the traditional Filipino pork sisig dish, which is made from pig's head, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, ginger, chiles, and black peppercorns. He serves his interpretation of this traditional dish with cubed pork belly atop a tangle of fries.

5. Light Dressings

Chef Charles Wiley of Mountain Shadows in Scottsdale, Arizona thinks vinaigrettes will be more common on menus in 2017, and they will replace heavier sauces. "There are more amazing vinegars and oils on the market now than ever before," he says. "The spectrum is endless—vegetable (beet, mushroom and shallot, or root vegetable vinaigrette), herb (parsley, basil, sage, or charred rosemary), fruit (apple, persimmon, pear, peach, or melon), spice (turmeric, cumin, and pink peppercorn), and Asian flavors (soy, sesame oil, ginger, and miso)," he says.

These are five examples of trends that chefs expect to see in the coming year. You can expect to see many more unique restaurant trends in 2017, so keep your eye out for fads that you can embrace and make the most of at your restaurant.

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