Tired of the same old New Year's resolutions? Same here. So we reached out to more than 30 chefs in seven different cities to find out their culinary resolutions for 2011. Our question was simple: If you had to come up with one food- or drink-related resolution what would it be?
Their answers added up to more than just a list of good intentions: They turned into what might be seen as our final trend piece for 2010 — a collection of predictions, straight from the chefs' mouths, of what look for in 2011. The resolutions fell into six categories: Personal Bests, Back to Basics, More Local/Organic, Better Practices, New Dishes, and Wishful Thinking.
There were classic personal resolutions, like Le Bernardin executive pastry chef Michael Laiskonis' vow "to eat a good breakfast." And resolutions to eat less and exercise more: New Orleans restaurateur Ralph Brennan who wants to try "to sneak out for ice cream runs only a handful of times," and Washington, D.C., chef Robert Weidmaier, who promises to keep doing one push-up and one sit-up for his every year of age. And resolutions to do more, like Red Hook Lobster Pound co-owner Susan Povich's resolve "to bring down more blueberries and crab" from Maine. But there was also potential news: Chef Cesare Casella of New York City resolved to open a new restaurant. And chefs added flourishes to even basic hopes. Take the resolution of moderation from French Culinary Institute dean emeritus Alain Sailhac: "I'll eat less foie gras and caviar. And instead of two bottles of wine a day I'll try only two glasses."
BACK TO BASICS
If chefs' resolutions to get back to basics are harbingers for New York City in 2011, expect more family-style eating (Ty Bellingham, Kittichai), a return to French classics at Plein Sud (Ed Cotton), and increased attention to customer satisfaction (David Santos, Hotel Griffou). In Philly, a desire from Executive Chef Robert Aikens for the staff in his new restaurant, The Dandelion, "to always keep what they are doing simple: food, service, everything."
LOCAL AND ORGANIC
We've all heard so much in recent years about the value of using local and organic produce that it seems like old news, but for many chefs it remains a major concern. In New York, for instance: Chefs like Marco Moreira (Tocqueville) and Robert Newton (Seersucker) want to "work closer with local farmers and fisherman" and "work with even more local purveyors." Chef Nikki Cascone wants to grow the recycling program at Octavia's Porch, and "source out environmentally safe and healthy products" for customers. And chefs are looking to make this push in different ways and for different purposes. Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner (KG-NY) is interested in featuring more organic wines. Down in Austin, meanwhile, Trio's chef, Elmar Prambs, wants to use ingredients from local growers and providers, but to experiment with them to show "that 'healthy' doesn't have to come at the expense of flavor."
Efficiency and growth, featuring new farms, a focus on health, and making an effort to expand gluten-free offerings — these were also concerns chefs resolved to address in 2011. Num Pang's owner, Ben Daitz, resolves to ensure consistent growth and to increase his bottom line. Chef Chris Siverson wants to feature a new farm at his restaurant every month. So too, Chef Franklin Becker who would like to serve a farm-to-table prix fixe at Abe & Arthur's, Some chefs are focused on others like Chef Brendan Fyldes of The Stafford London by Kempenski, who intends to blend fruit smoothies for his staff to beef up their vitamin intake, and Chef Richard Sandoval who wants to expand his gluten-free menu.
NEW DISHES AND INGREDIENTS
As always, chefs need to adapt, experiment and shake things up with new dishes and ingredients. In New York City look for a Peking duck sandwich from Chef Ratha Chaupoly of New York's Num Pang, more pomegranate at Graffiti and Mehtaphor from Chef Jehangir Mehta, and from Iron Chef Marc Forgione — the trend that will not die — "more bacon fat." Chefs Alex Guarnaschelli (Butter and The Darby, NY), David Felton (Ninety Acres at Natirar, Peapack-Gladstone, NJ), and Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Chicago) are rethinking their booze programs — through new cocktails, barrel-aged liquor, and beer.
But resolutions wouldn't be what they are without a bit of the unattainable to them. For that, you can appreciate the resolutions of chefs including Dave Talde (Buddakan NY), Adam Woodfield (Betel, NY), David Guas (Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, D.C.), David Seigal (The Tangled Vine, NY), and Amanda Cohen (Dirt Candy, NY): Less drinking, more adventurous customers, to give up on resolutions, for the front of house to cook for the back of house occasionally, and "to replace myself with a giant robot arm that has 75 points of articulation."