The re-branding of dining

Recently, I received a notice about a culinary conference in Sweden that was judiciously tracing the history of culinary trends, 1950 to present to 50 years hence.

And yet, while Americans’ dining trends may be quite different than Nordic diets, there is some valuable, overlapping practices. Diners, everywhere, are all but demanding to be more involved with the ingredients. not just the completed dish. Less formal dining with heavy sauces and huge portions are being replaced by healthier options, complete with plant-based ingredients.

Sure we can chuckle, perhaps even snicker, over free rang-chicken discussions. However, recent scares of infected Romaine are once again prompting overarching questions on health and safety.

For instance, in this day and age, why in the US do we still not have proper facilities in the fields for waste or even basic hygiene? If, in fact, it is well known in the industry that raw sewage leaks into the water systems. What precautions are being followed?

So, what can responsible consumers, conscientious activists, and good-ol foodies alike do? Simple, become educated, be critical thinkers, ask questions when in doubt learn about specific farm vendors and seafood vendors.

By all means, be proactive and support community businesses that use local organic products. Nearby neighborhood farms love when patrons visit and they sure are eager to provide guided tours, etc… Although we Americans will continue to fret over whether to order caramel macchiato with or without whipped cream, we all need to move toward discovering health options like hydroponic gardening and nonhormonal foods.

And the trends are clear, the movement has begun, more gluten-free and plant-based options for diners set in more casual settings are apparent. A new awareness is taking form. Why, even the blending of paleo, non GMO, whole 30 and no preservatives is constructed onto contemporary menus. Simply put, the dining experience is evolving into ‘something for everyone’. Fresh healthy options for a group, each with slightly different wants and needs, can now be enjoyed. ‘All you can eat’ buffets are being replaced by culinary spots that promise: individual attention, healthy options, and stress-free dining (or delivery), as evidenced by the demand for whole grain bowls with roasted organic vegetables.

For those of us who still crave the occasional homemade fresh white pasta and the now and again slice of real pizza, rest assured. Just make sure the tomatoes are fresh and aplenty, and that the basil is grown locally, responsibly.

A graduate of Johnson & Wales, Judi has managed restaurants and owned restaurants in the northeast and was the founder of a successful dessert company. Today, she is a sought-after restaurant consultant, TV cook on the ABC affiliate in her hometown, and culinary editor of a city magazine. Her personal passions are culinary travel to exotic places and holiday cooking in her home for huge gatherings of friends and relatives. Her guilty pleasure? Bruce Springsteen concerts. “I follow him around the country and have for years,” she admits. “But, in every city where Bruce sings, I do check out new restaurants and talk to up and coming chefs. I want all the food news I can get.”