vegetables, produceThe National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” culinary forecast predicts menu trends for the year ahead by surveying nearly 1,300 professional chefs -- members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) -- and the results are in for 2014.

The top restaurant menus trends for 2014 focus on local sourcing, environmental sustainability and nutrition -- children’s nutrition in particular. Officials say these trends have been gaining momentum for several years and indicate that these wider themes influence the national culinary scene.

“Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) research and knowledge group. “True trends–as opposed to temporary fads–show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society, over time, and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items; unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented; as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”

Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, HGT, AAC, is the ACF’s national president.

top 10 menu trends“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” he says. “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry, and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”

In addition, the “What’s Hot in 2014” survey found that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g., savory, fresh ingredients) and regional, signature cocktails.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free cuisine.

The five items with the highest ranking as a “waning trend” in 2014 were foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho and fun-shaped children’s items. The five items with the highest points as perennial trends next year were fried chicken, Italian cuisine, frying, barbeque and Eggs Benedict.

The five that gained most in trendiness since last year, in the annual survey, were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens and Southeast Asian cuisine. The five items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef and organic coffee.

Compared with five years ago, items that have remained top 20 food trends include locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free cuisine, sustainable seafood and health/nutrition. Items that have dropped substantially down the list from the top 20 food trends in 2009 include gelato, micro-greens, flatbreads, tapas/meze/dim sum and dessert flights.

Also included in the “What’s Hot in 2014” survey were questions about other trends. Nearly six out of 10 (59%) of the chefs said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while one third (33%) said they cook with nutrition in mind; but, not all recipes are easily adjusted.