Despite the hospitality and event industries going into somewhat of a hibernation due to COVID-19, leading chefs continue to scope out the latest food trends and plan menus for 2020 and beyond.
Here, three chefs from leading hotels and venues share their predictions on the major trends set to influence food and beverage, as well as how COVID-19 will impact the way we dine in the future.
When things get back to normal, this is what you can expect to see on the menu at restaurants and event venues alike.
For years, plant-based dining has been a growing trend among households and, gradually, the trend has found its way into venues as well.
According to a report by Food Frontier, between 2018 and 2019, Australian consumers spent an estimated $150 million on plant-based meat products. The movement is expected to continue, with Food Frontier predicting consumer spending on plant-based products to reach up to $4.6 billion by 2030.
With growth like that on the cards, it’s no surprise restaurants, hotels and venues are putting more plants on the menu. In 2019, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore appointed vegan specialist and plant-based chef Damian Piedrahita to help adapt its menus to the growing trend.
Piedrahita is working alongside the hotel’s kitchen teams to create vegan dishes and menus that don’t compromise on quality or taste.
“Most people might expect that being a vegan chef is restrictive where taste and creativity are concerned but I think the exact opposite happens,” says Piedrahita.
“Finding new ways to elevate humble ingredients from the earth and making them protagonists requires a lot of creativity.”
On the menu, special icons indicate the plant-based dishes, which include ‘Sea-soned Jackfruit Roll’ with pickled beetroot, young jackfruit, green pea cream, lemon foam and red cabbage gel and ‘Bicolour Molecular Gnocchi’ with carrot and purple potato, cauliflower cream and basil oil drops.
Once reserved for special occasions, degustations are becoming popular with corporate groups looking to reward their delegates or clients. Prior to COVID-19, Sydney venue 12-Micron introduced seven-course degustation menus for corporate groups in its private dining room.
While the food and beverage experience at 12-Micron will likely be revisited as restrictions ease, clients can look forward to exploring custom-made dining once the venue reopens.
“Often with small groups, the clients are looking to make the experience very personal and ‘experiential’ and degustation menus are exactly that,” said Adam Birtles, group executive chef at The Venues Collection, which operates 12-Micron.
“Every course is a segue to the next – one delightful surprise after another.”
The degustation menus, according to Birtles, allow the venue to showcase high quality Australian produce.
“This is very important as we try to reduce food miles and deliver a more responsible experience to our guests,” he says.
“Companies want more green options, and this can start with using locally sourced ingredients.”
Taking note of the rising numbers of plant-based diners, 12-Micron has also developed a vegan degustation menu for corporate groups.
“We do expect this trend to continue so we are now in a position to actively market our ability to cater well to this market segment,” said Birtles.
12-Micron’s degustation menu is ideal for VIP corporate dinners, incentive groups, post-board meeting events and groups looking to deliver a restaurant experience in a private setting.
“For clients wanting to impress their most important clients and stakeholders, this is a very effective way to make a big statement with a special dinner in a beautiful location on Sydney Harbour at Barangaroo,” said Birtles.
“12-Micron started its life as a restaurant, so it’s quite fitting that we carry some of this legacy into our experiences for the corporate event market.”
Local and ethical choices
As consumers become more informed about food choices, their desire for local and ethical menus grows. The Langham, Sydney executive chef Stephen Lech believes the impacts of COVID-19 will mean diners will have even more reasons to opt for local produce.
“Even before the current challenges we face, I feel customers were choosing to eat local more than ever before,” he says.
“Guests want to support restaurants that serve and use local producers.”
Lech leads the culinary program at the hotel’s signature restaurant Kitchens on Kent, a modern buffet experience that highlights local produce through various interactive cooking stations.
He believes the combination of local produce and live cooking will appeal to diners even more after restrictions are lifted.
“To eat in your own neighbourhood increases the overall experience of eating out, along with creating that connection between the restaurant team, knowing the origin of the produce and, at Kitchens on Kent especially, getting the experience to really watch your chef prepare and cook your cuisine for you,” he says.
Ethical eating is also tipped to be a growing trend in the year ahead, says Lech.
“This has been a trend for a while, but I believe this will continue over the next year as customers continue to question and digest the information of where their fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat comes
from,” he says.
“It’s becoming easier and easier to eat healthier, so the trend of sustainable and ethical eating will continue.”
While events and hospitality may be in hibernation now, when restrictions ease, a focus on memorable dining experiences, local produce and ethical choices will be paramount.
How will COVID-19 impact F&B?
The nation, and much of the world in fact, have been deprived of dining at restaurants, attending dinner events or meeting clients for a drink, due to necessarily restrictions amid COVID-19.
According to The Langham, Sydney executive chef Stephen Lech, Aussies will be excited to get back to dining out once restrictions ease, however their priorities for choosing a venue will be different.
“Firstly, hygiene and food safety will be paramount,” he says.
“Secondly, customers will want to know that the produce hasn’t taken days to reach the restaurant.
“They’ll crave fresh, local produce where they can be told the origin and the story of how it arrived in the kitchen and even then watch it being cooked fresh, right in front of them.”
If event venues can guarantee strict hygiene standards and fresh, locally sourced produce, groups will be filling tables again soon.
This article originally appeared in the Winter issue of Spice Magazine. Subscribe here or read the full issue below: