Global Dining in 2011

December 31/The Business Times Singapore --  On the global dining front, 2010 has been about going back to basics. Diners are eating less meat now, so there is a higher demand for seafood and vegetables, explains Tetsuya Wakuda, chef  at Waku Ghin. "In terms of ingredients, Chinese caviar has improved in terms of consistency and quality this year, compared to, say, three years ago. Japanese and Italian cuisine will continue growing -- it is comfort food you can eat three to four times a week and not get sick of it. I see both ends of the dining spectrum growing in 2011. People are dining out more, with more casual restaurants serving good food at affordable prices. At the same time, restaurants that diners go to on special occasions are doing well too."

Daniel Boulud, chef at DB Bistro Moderne, notes, "Farm to table is a big thing now. DBGB (his restaurant in New York) also started the trend of casual dining over beer and sausages - within one and a half years five beer gardens opened in New York.

"Bar dining is also a recent trend. We also see more restaurants where chefs serve guests as well, a cross between Japanese and Spanish influence, for a more interesting dining experience.

"As for ingredients, I'm more interested in discovering products than just following a trend. Lately I have been using Buddha hand lemon more, as well as lightly sweet pickles. I have been serving charcuterie for the past four years in an artisanal and authentic way. To be able to explore other's cuisines and culture - for example, the Thai sausage and the Austrian smoky sausage - through charcuterie is an amazing journey.

"Some of the chefs worth looking out for in the U .S. are Paul Leibrandt (Corton, New York), Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, New York), David Myers (Sona, LA), Corey Lee (formerly from The French Laundry, California), Jonathan Benno (formerly from Per Se, New York) and Gavin Kaysen (Cafe Boulud, New York). These are all talented and passionate young chefs in their 30s who will be the next big chefs in America. They live with their communities, with the farmers and suppliers. They are not opportunistic and are really grounded and ambitious."

For Kevin Cherkas, chef de cuisine at BLU, Shangri-La Singapore, "One major dining trend of 2010 I've noticed in major cities like New York, London and Vancouver is the rise of casual dining -- eateries that bridge the gap between street food and fine dining.

"For 2011, I believe international comfort food will be a major trend. By this, I mean each country's unique little dishes that are sold at smaller dining establishments anywhere, focusing on only a few elements, done well. For example, French charcuterie, London's fish and chips, Beijing's hand-made noodles, Italian ice cream, Australian boutique burger bars, Korean tea shops, etc.

"Sustainable resources will be popular. Production of ingredients from small independent farmers are likely to be in higher demand as people are more aware that bad health is a direct result of bad food."

Wee Teng Wen, director of Lo & Behold Group believes the major trends that took place in 2010 will likely continue in 2011: Fresh, artisanal ingredients that are sourced locally, small/sharing plates, focused menus and an increasing number of restaurants situated at interesting locations.

"Sustainability will be a key trend. Restaurants overseas have responded to this with the hyper-local movement where restaurants are not just sourcing for local produce but producing their own (for example with rooftop or urban farming and restaurant gardens), it will be interesting to see that grow.

"What's In: Sous vide, cooking techniques at the bar and culinary cocktails, farm fresh local produce, interesting restaurant locations, sustainability, focused menus, communal dining.

"What's Out: Ramen, molecular gastronomy, fusion cuisine, the easy kill of including truffle just to elevate a dish."

Emmanuel Stroobant, chef-owner of Saint Pierre Group, has seen the rise of the Japanese chef and the decline of avant garde "molecular" cuisine. "There's also been a shift from Europe as the trend-setter -- now you see more Asian influences in their top restaurants, probably because the top chefs are all travelling to Asia to open restaurants or do consultancy work. You now have Alain Ducasse's Louis XV serving 'Gambas coconut and curry' or Michel Bras pairing Foie gras with 'fennel lassi.'

"Health is also another trend for 2011. That means simple food, and an ingredient-focused menu.

"The greatest challenge remains staffing, I think most restaurateurs will agree that finding professional, knowledgeable and passion-driven Singaporean service staff is close to a miracle.

"What's In: Thermal circulator (low-temperature cooking); grains (quinoa, spelt); wood fire and coal barbecue; local seafood; 'second cut' meat - as opposed to prime cuts; $200 average price for dinner without drinks; vegetarian food.

"What's Out: Bubbles, foam and jellies; Wagyu beef; Kurobuta pork belly; French seafood; cream sauces; sorbet as a mid-course."

The biggest trend that hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik saw in 2010 was foraging. "Even urban restaurants are doing it now, thanks to Noma. There is even a food festival dedicated to it now called 'Cook it Raw,' and it's focused on foraging and using the ingredients with as little adornment as possible. It's moved far beyond locavore now!

"I sincerely hope 2011 is going to be more food and value focused. 2010 was all about the celebrity chefs and celebrity restaurants and the prices to match. There will eventually be a backlash against all these largely formulaic openings where the chef visits only two or three times a year for two or three days and do 'specials' at very special prices.

"The next hot trend? Some really good Spanish/ Catalan! ... I also hear lots of talk about South American fine dining -- Peruvian fusion mostly. I was recently in Chile and Argentina for my honeymoon and really all the chefs I spoke to were raving about it.

"What's In: Local talent; sustainable fish; casual and fun dining out with friends.

"What's Out: Celebrity restaurants; shark's fin; $800 four-hour meals."

From the January 5, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News
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