This is the time of year when any self-respecting website, particularly a food related one, is busy making lists. For one thing, it gives the reader a brief wrap-up of the things that mattered over the past year (“The 12 Best Pickled Beets of 2012!”) or a glimpse into the future at the things that will be important the next (“13 Citrus Fruits You’ll Be Eating in 2013!). And for another, it gives the producers of that material a relatively easy task so that they can concentrate on enjoying the great holiday traditions of eating ourselves stupid and drinking so much it’ll be March before our livers get the whole mess sorted out.
Since I’ve never been one to pick the carcass of dead horse for new ideas--I could care less which restaurants had the most neatly-folded napkins in the year gone by--I decided to focus on what hot new trends in food and dining will be done to death like a Sriracha-covered Bahn Mi cupcake slider in the next 12 months.
Therefore. Be the first kid on your block to start driving these new trends so deep in the ground that coal miners will be the last ones to get sick of them.
The Slow Food movement has championed using fresh, local ingredients, heirloom varieties of vegetables and heritage breeds of animals. And it has done so by infusing the entire matter with epic levels of douchebaggery. A simple Cobb salad now requires a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation to detail just how much trouble went into selecting just the right Kurobuta pork belly for the bacon and the Blue Andalusian eggs lovingly hard-boiled in glacial spring water and then crumbled on top.
Ground-to-mouth, let’s call it The Pure Soil Movement just for the jolly hell of it, will have all the hipster-pleasing self-satisfaction of the Locavore crusade with the added benefit of making the poor dupes look even sillier. Ground-to-mouth is what it sounds like; built on the specious concept that nothing is fresher than food right straight out of the ground, because nothing tastes of the terroir more than the terroir itself. Fad-slave foodies will crowd around specially-designed planters, Instragramming carrots and saying things like, “This grew near an oak. I’m getting just a hint of acorn.”
Expect the fad to be in full swing by mid-year, when big-name chefs are clamoring to put their mark on it. Look for restaurants like Gordon Ramsay’s Dirt! and Emeril’s spectacular Soil Sample buffet in Vegas. Fortunately, the fad will play itself out long before Burger King unveils their soil-topped Loamburger.
Out: Rene Redzepi and Noma
In: Grygor Tukhtakhodjaev and Yemoq
Continuing the recent trend of finding spectacularly talented but severely OCD chefs in ridiculously out-of-the-way places, all eyes in the food world will focus on Uzbekistan this year because why the hell not. Like Ferran Adria, the mad scientist who stuck his restaurant in Spain and dared the world to come to him, and Redzepi, who built a world-class restaurant in gloomy Denmark using only those ingredients that were in his direct line of sight, Grygor and Yemoq will continue the tradition.
Tukhtakhodjaev, who has no formal culinary training but learned his innovative take on traditional Uzbekistani cuisine out of necessity when his wife left him for a CIA operative who came through their town of Chimboy looking for Soviet-era nukes, achieved local fame for preparing mutton in such a way that it didn’t taste as much like old leather pants. He will open his restaurant, Yemoq (Uzbek for “eat”) early in the year, and, using his inborn knowledge of the economics of scarcity, will limit the place to one seating of one table for one person per day. Prospective diners will be required to take their seat at the crack of dawn and remain quiet while Tukhtakhodjaev goes about his daily chores. There will be no menu; you’ll get whatever he feels like fixing, whenever he gets around to fixing it. Gastro-tourists will flock to the former Soviet republic just for the thrill of being denied a reservation in person.
Look for Tukhtakhodjaev to capitalize on his 15 minutes with his delightfully unpretentious cookbook Yemoq (sample recipe: Mutton. Take mutton, cook mutton, serve mutton. Drink.) and his cash-grab restaurant/nightclub collaboration with Guy Fieri, Mutton Honey and Sheep Thrills. Though the restaurant will not open until 2014, Pete Wells of the New York Times already loathes it.
In: That little hunk of fat from a can of pork ‘n’ beans
Mining the comfort food archives for “new” ideas, this unlikely star will take center stage in Lucky ‘13. While the Culinatti will explore high-end deconstructions of the mysterious morsel, such as Wylie Dufresne’s cube of pure lardo suspended in a navy bean foam and set atop a cloud of tomato essence, purists will be squarely divided between the canonical Van Camp’s and Campbell’s versions. The beans themselves will be donated to homeless shelters, until they acquire their own level of reactionary hipness and are ladled out from fleets of food trucks for two prices.
Speaking of which.
Out: Food trucks
The ultimate in pop-up mobile dining, the picnic will come to the forefront as a way to allow the undercapitalized to compete with bricks-and-mortar restaurants while skirting the onerous regulations being currently imposed on the food truck industry. Enterprising would-be restaurateurs will simply show up wherever public dining facilities are available and lay out their spread. By all appearances just an informal group of people enjoying an al fresco gathering, local government officials need not know that “Cousin Chris” manning the grill is a CIA grad and Aunt Patty’s potato salad won a James Beard Award.
The trend will rely on social media for its initial success, but that will also be its undoing when the current generation of oversharing Tweet-happy smartphone addicts will be unable to keep their damned thumbs still and next thing you know, you’ll need a permit just to eat your own bagged lunch on a park bench.
Because why the hell not.