Chef Talk

Shaun Kenworthy talks about the latest food trends in his column ‘Chocolate, Chillies & other Culinary vulgarities’

  • Published 10.02.18

Instead of my usual Q&A column, with a New Year upon us, I thought I’d fill you in on all things food which are trending internationally and where I think these trends can fit in into the Indian gastro revolution. Something which is set to continue for a good few years to come. But first, let’s begin with a bit of a summary of the year gone by.

The country saw a glut of new Asian, Indian, Western, desi Western and desi Asian places popping up everywhere, with a lot more focus on QSRs and bars and restaurants pushing the boundaries of the nouveau desi-isation of any and everything much more than ever before. This was always going to happen in a country where everyone loves all of those big power-punching flavours.

We’ve seen many more investors taking the risk of opening purely vegetarian places than ever before and focusing on pretty much the same boundary-pushing desi approach as the above. While pan-India QSRs focussing on eggs or just chicken as a mainstay have been doing incredibly well — that should come at no surprise either.

We’ve seen pancakes and waffles slowly but steadily creeping into the daily life with all manner of sweet and savoury offerings. Chefs and restaurateurs are waking up much more to regional cuisines and regional/locally-sourced ingredients. Farmers’ markets and seasonal produce have started creeping into menus. That’s a breath of fresh air to me after trying to sow the seed of this for years across India to chefs, restaurant owners and the public themselves, but again I guess it was only a matter of time until this picked up pace.

The food and nightlife scene in Calcutta seems, at least from the outside (rent and overheads aside), to be flourishing and gaining pace on the other Metros. Park Street and Camac Street have almost been re-invented over the past couple of years as the ‘to-go’ and ‘to-be’ foodies’ hub in the city, with bars and restaurants opening on a weekly basis. Slowly but surely, it seems bao, dim sum, udon noodles, brew pubs, sushi, beef burger or a sticky rack of pork ribs are finally set to come into the mainstream of the Calcutta restaurant future.

So what does 2018 look like? Well, I guess a lot more of the same as there is still a lot to explore in everything written above. We may even get to see a bit of vegan (people have started talking to me about it). 

Internationally, over the last year, there has been a wide range of food and drink trends and changing attitudes towards health, community and environment, which will continue. If the supply chain gets better, then salad and juice bars could start showing up more and yes, the avocado, kale, quinoa and chia seed craze is all set to continue.

Will we see bibimbap and poke bowl places? Well I don’t see why not. Anything and everything can be put into a bowl or a bento box, endlessly customisable and affordable too. Gut-friendly food? Well that’s another thing the world is talking about (what goes in and how it comes out!), which means the age-old traditions of fermenting, pickling and preserving are again back in the mainstream. Although #boozefreebevs or alcohol-free beverages are growing like crazy internationally, India just can’t get enough of the stuff!

East and West African/South American cuisines? Well, at least that’s what the world is expecting to see much more this year — from Ethiopia to Peru and everything in those parts of the world are packed with flavours, perfect for India with just a little research. With people constantly on the go, the so-called fourth meal or brunch or brinner is something that keeps growing as a concept the world over.

More specialised tea and coffee bars we will surely see, particularly with the world’s number uno Starbucks all set to light up the faces of many in the city anytime soon. Hyper-local food is another thing which is making news internationally with more and more foraged food hitting those supermarket shelves. 

As a final word, something for all Indian investors to be thinking about investing in has to be plant-based protein processing which is fast becoming the holy grail of future food, particularly if you can crack the juicy, meaty code which will work for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

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