We asked some of the South’s best chefs and mixologists to check their GPS readings (Gourmet Prediction Senses) and share directions on where they see food and cocktail trends heading in 2016. Microscopic portions? Kale kudos? Recalculating.
- Spice spikes -- Southern Gentleman and Gypsy Kitchen chef Matthew Ridgway plans to add depth with principal players from eastern lands: black garlic, black lime, black cardamom, white cardamom, Aleppo pepper and wolfberries (a.k.a. goji berries).
- New cuts, grain gains -- Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails chef Tom Gray in Jacksonville, Florida looks for novel meats such as chicken livers, pig ears and flank steak to land on plates. Another kernel of insight points to alternative grains, emphasizing whole and ancient varieties.
- Origins -- Atlanta’s Ray’s Restaurants consultant Chad Crete predicts a vegetable takeover as diners pursue healthier eating habits. Lineage is equally important. Customers want to know where their food originates and are seeking out local produce, sustainable fish and free-range and hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. Moxie’s Gray dittos Crete, noting diners want the backstory on ingredients, enthusiastically supporting smaller carbon footprints generated by locally made products and urban farming businesses. Ridgway unpacks further, suggesting the deepening affection for Southern cooking will lead to greater dependence on local farmers for heirloom varieties of produce, beans and grains. Bellina Alimentari creative director Alice Fabi sees land sustainability as a critical 2016 food path priority as menus seek the essence of food and prime ingredients.
- Oysters -- Doug Turbush of Seed Kitchen & Bar, Stem Wine Bar and soon-to-open Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar offers pearls of wisdom, foreseeing a bright future for briny oysters as devotee interest increases in oyster slurping rituals and the nuances of oysters from various regions, terroir and growing methods. Flavor-masking cocktail sauces and horseradish will be tossed overboard.
- Prized portions -- Bantam + Biddy and Chick-a-Biddy chef Lance Gummere cries “fowl” on high-priced, minuscule portions garnished with dabs of purée and micro greens. Enough already. Folks want to share their food when dining out, Gummere believes, which necessitates restaurants filling plates with identifiable food.
- Healthy and hop to it -- Chef, restaurant owner, speaker and cookbook author Kevin Gillespie of Red Beard Restaurants sees an uptick in consumer demand for faster, healthier options. Not salad bars but lighter cuisine served at fast-food speed. Crete of Ray’s Restaurants affirms, millennials, soon to be the nation’s largest demographic group, want local ingredients in chef-driven dishes served fast and affordably.
- Kitchen cocktails -- Johnny’s Hideaway bartender Shawn McCoy sees bartenders shaking up the kitchen for cocktail perks such as freshly squeezed juices, herbs, spices and ingredients like chipotle and balsamic vinegar. Ice age? McCoy picks away at standard issue cubes as mixologists seek quality ice for drinks.
- Be sensitive -- Food sensitivities are here to stay and gluten-free demands will keep rising, according to Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails and The Big Ketch Roswellchef Derek Dollar.
- Tiki talk -- Amid the predictions, Kevin Gillespie would like to see one flashback to retro Tiki bars like Trader Vic’s!