1. Feeling more heat from Latin America and Asia. Sriracha, ghost peppers and kimchi are just some of the spicy condiments getting more menu exposure as ethnic fare from Latin America and Asia stays on trend. And as adventurous diners continue to seek dishes with heat, chefs will add more exotic fire to their culinary arsenal. Look for everything from the familiar jalapeños and Thai chilies, to lesser-known scorchers like habaneros and Korean gochuchang.
2. Sweet on sour. Consumer interest in sweet, salty and umami flavors has risen in recent years. Now sour tastes from mild tangy to aggressive tart are proving popular and penetrating all aspects of the menu. These pucker-inducing ingredients run the gamut from fruits like cranberries and citrus to briny pickles and other fermented fare. Also expect an uptick in sour ethnic fare like Greek yogourt and kimchi, as well as sour beverages such as kombucha and sour beer.
3. Creative carbs. From tempting breads to fanciful French fries and craveable Asian noodles, chefs are showcasing carbs in new and interesting ways. As diners continue demanding occasional craveable indulgences, expect continued growth of trendy, carb-heavy foodstuffs like ramen, poutine and designer doughnuts. Also look for chefs to reimagine traditional dishes with new takes on pastas, pizzas and fries. Indulgent bread uses like pretzel-bun burgers and savoury waffle sandwiches also play into the carb trend.
4. What's not in food. Restaurants are going to great lengths to make sure some things are left off the plate. Whether sodium, calories, fat, steroids or GMOs, what goes into consumers' bodies is influencing their food purchases more than ever. Look for gluten -- increasingly spotlighted for its absence on menus -- to lead the pack of what is not in food. Also expect increased usage of general menu descriptors like "free," "reduced," "lower" and "without."
5. Kitchen craftsmanship. The emphasis consumers are placing on artisanal and housemade foods and beverages is inspiring chefs to make even more of their own products onsite. This DIY attitude in the kitchen piggybacks the local and natural movements of recent years that helped connect consumers with their surrounding lands and waters. Now diners are forming loyalties to specific chefs who display the culinary artistry needed to prepare ingredients like pickles, beer and bitters from scratch.