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National Restaurant Association Reveals 2018 Hot List

By Jessica Maurer, posted Feb 7, 2018

The National Restaurant Association recently released its annual survey of 700 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – to predict food and beverage trends at restaurants in the coming year. The annual “What’s Hot” list gives a peek into which food, beverages and culinary concepts will be the new items on restaurant menus that everyone is talking about in 2018.

According to the survey, menu trends that will be heating up in 2018 include vegetable forward dishes; street food-inspired dishes such as kabobs and dumplings; ethnic spices such as harissa, curry, peri peri and ras el hanout; as well as ethnic condiments like sriracha, sambal and chimichurri. Also trending are farm/estate-branded items, heritage-breed meats and ancient grains such as kamut, spelt, amaranth and farro.

“Local, vegetable-forward, and ethnic-inspired menu items will reign supreme in the upcoming year. Guests are implementing these trends in their own lifestyles and want to see them reflected on restaurant menus. In response, chefs are creating more items in-house and turning to global flavors,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association, in a news release.

While vegetables may be at the forefront in 2018, many restaurants are being more selective in the meats they serve, and looking to introduce customers to new cuts of meat. Some of the cuts of beef consumers may begin to see include shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak and Merlot-cut. 

Two recently opened local businesses, True Blue Butcher & Table and Fathom & Farm, are among the Wilmington-area restaurants that seem to be in step with this trend with their aims of providing high-quality meats from humanely raised animals.  

The ACF also anticipates seeing a re-vamp of many kid’s menus to include healthier, more creative options, as well as more ethnic-inspired kid’s meals such as tacos and sushi, the news release said. 

“Chefs strive to strike the right balance between offering consumers what they want to eat now and guiding them toward new and exciting culinary frontiers," said ACF national president Stafford T. DeCambra in the release.

As for restaurant concepts, the ACF anticipates a growth in chef-driven fast-casual concepts that focus on clean eating and locally sourced goods presented in a quick, approachable and affordable way.

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