A Chef's Predictions for 2015's Dining Trends

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Chef Tom Woodbury predicts this year’s trends
Tom Woodbury

Expect to see more high-caffeine tea in the not-so-distant future. 

What does it take to make millions in the food industry? Every year, small food purveyors gather at the Fancy Food trade show with that question in mind. The Fancy Food show is a mix of American Idol and gluttony, with the ultimate result being 700,000 square feet of aspiring food creators. In this chaos, a careful eye will spot growing food trends.

This year was no different, with 2015 offering five trends that will be showing up in restaurants and stores throughout the year.

Vanilla Goes Savory 
If food were a romantic comedy, vanilla would be the leading lady's best friend. Always there to be sweet and supportive, never the star. Vanilla makes your chocolate richer, your cookies more complex, and your ice cream more palatable. It assists and enhances without really stepping into the limelight. Vanilla is always there in a pastry recipe, never being too forward or bold.

In 2015, vanilla has moved into a leading role.

Vanilla has ditched her best friend, grabbed the leading man by the huevos, and is now showing him just how good she really is. Why should chocolate get to be the crust on a steak? Why should chocolate get to be added to mole? Vanilla has so much to offer!

One example of its triumphant emergence from the shadows is in a Vanilla Cheddar from Heber Valley Artisan Cheese. With so many other chances for vanilla to shine, look for other savory dishes to experience the power of vanilla as it takes over.

The Japanese Invasion 
The proud and noble meat and potatoes that built this fine country are being invaded by a foreign power. And those flavors are invading American food at a breakneck pace. It seemed easy enough. First miso soup paste made its way to the soup aisle. Then roasted seaweed strips started showing up in the snack food section. And like an army of ninjas quietly yet quickly infiltrating an opposing leaders palace, Japanese flavors are appearing out of nowhere.

Exhibit A: Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn recently released a variety of popcorn simply called "Nori Sesame." Popcorn, the food that has been a staple of America since the Plymouth Rock was a pebble, is being fused with a flavor so Japanese that it loves anime and Tom Cruise.

Look for traditional American cuisine to see a revolution at the hands of miso, nori, and dashi.

Tea Gets Macho
In America, we like everything big. We want big trucks, big flavor, and big muscles. We want our coffee to wake us up in the morning, kick us in the teeth, and give us a pep talk before we go about our day.

But not tea. In 2014, tea enjoyed talks of subtlety and rose petals. Tea enjoyed taking walks on the beach after a rainstorm, smelling the whiffs of salinity with each passing wave.

But something notorious happened to tea In 2015. No one knows if tea has been lifting weights, or if perhaps it finally hit puberty. All of a sudden, tea is upping its caffeine content and challenging coffee as the morning beverage of choice.

Now certain tea products, like the "Hi Caf Teas" line from The Republic of Tea have more caffeine then a comparable amount of coffee. In spite of the morning gut punch, tea has still managed to maintain its sensitive side with flavors like "Cinnamon Toast Black." It's the right balance of muscle and poetry. Tea still enjoys long walks on the beach, but kicks sand in the face of other beverages that get in its way. 

Forget Gluten-Free, Food is Now Everything-Free
Gluten has a bad name. So much so that gluten-free food is projected to be a $1.68 BILLION a year industry in 2015. (For comparison, the GDP of Belize is $1.5 Billion.) It's grown to be a huge cash cow. Gluten broke through the proverbial wall, and GMOs, soy, dairy, wheat, egg, fish, and nuts are all the next thing purveyors will eliminate from food.

For example, Enjoy Life Foods has built a business on food that is free of the eight common allergens — and this business is growing rapidly. Watch for other manufactures to follow suit in 2015 as food manufacturers capitalize on this expanding market. With the Centers for Disease Control reporting a 50-percent increase in instances of food allergies in children over the last 15 years, eliminating allergens from food will be a BIG deal.

Cruciferi Yourself
A few years ago, kale was America's sweetheart. It was seen in all the hot clubs dancing with the beautiful greens of the world. Kale was rumored to be in a love triangle with Charlie Sheen and Miley Cyrus, and when kale chose Miley, Charlie got kicked off a hit TV show and started talking about Tiger Blood and Winning. Kale was at the top of the charts!

But Mr. Sheen would have the last laugh. While Charlie moved on to another show, kale has lost its luster, now begging for change to scrape up enough for a Big Mac and a small fries. Fame can be so cruel.

The hot new food in town? Cruciferous vegetables, particularly broccoli. Broccoli is the new kale. It's dried, pressed, and made up like a beautiful new starlet, and available in ways never before thought possible. Look for broccoli "chips" from Creative Snacks Company  to further cement broccoli as the Veggie Du Jour.
 

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