From the most searched news to the biggest questions people had, Google shared its top trending searches of 2022 with the world.
When we enter a new year, trend predictions are everywhere as far as the eye can see from fashion to wall color to fitness. But what about food?
Trends in general are difficult to predict, with food trends being one of the toughest as tastes (pun most definitely intended) change as economic and social conditions do.
I mean who would have thought scores of people would have been trying their hand at baking bread during the pandemic? Or a rise in kombucha manufacturing?
For 2023, we asked two experts from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park what trends we can expect throughout the year: Dr. Willa Zhen and Liana Wood.
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Zhen is author of “Food Studies: A Hands-On Guide” and a professor at the CIA teaching “Introduction to Gastronomy, Anthropology of Food, and Applied Food Studies,” according to her bio. Wood teaches in the CIA’s hospitality program and has experience in the retail and restaurant industries having worked at Whole Foods, Amazon and Dinex Group.
Here are trends Zhen and Wood think we could see in 2023:
With inflation tightening budgets around the nation, the debate over eating out versus cooking at home and which is cheaper has emerged.
Zhen said that whether eating at home or in a restaurant is cheaper is dependent on what you’re eating or cooking adding that eating at home is overall cheaper as far as ingredients go. For instance, purchasing a lobster at the supermarket and cooking it at home will always be cheaper than going to a restaurant. The same could be said for alcoholic beverages, according to Zhen, noting restaurants upcharge on alcohol because “it’s a large source of revenue.
Zhen added that cooking from home is often a healthier option too “because you can choose to use less sodium or cooking techniques like baking instead of deep frying.”
It’s not just about price, though. Wood believes people have “rediscovered their enjoyment of cooking.”
“I think, when taking the time to cook, people will seek out recipes and dishes that are meaningful and special to them,” Wood said. “Coming from a grocery background, I will say that penny for penny, cooking at home is usually cheaper. With this however, you miss out on the experience of trying a chef’s creation and experiencing another’s interpretation of ingredients.”
Since 2020, restaurants have faced extended closures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and a slow-going resurgence as people start feeling more and more comfortable heading into crowds again. With inflation, restaurants are also facing rising costs of food, rent, heat, wages and more.
With that in mind, Zhen and Wood agree that customers are being more mindful in their approach to going to restaurants, looking for special options.
“In speaking with friends, family, students, etc., there is a desire to return to pre-pandemic life,” Wood said. “However, I have noticed people being selective in their activities to ensure that their experience is worthwhile.”
Zhen noted that some restaurants are “having smaller, more focused menus” and are taking creative approaches to gain revenue including “offering good take-out options or selling merchandise.”
Zehn adds that though cooking from home is typically cheaper, having the time, space and energy to cook is often a luxury that some people just can’t afford. Not to mention that sometimes, when you don’t have all of the ingredients for a dish you don’t make often, it can be more expensive than just going to a restaurant.
“For example, I love Indian food. Indian cuisine has beautiful, vibrant flavors and seasonings, and there are many different regional styles of cooking,” Zhen said. “I don’t have nearly half of the spices to make some of the dishes my family and I love, and it’d be expensive to buy all that for food I’d make a few times a year. So, I support my local Indian restaurant instead.”
Zhen believes that restaurants are opening up more about their values and identities.
“Business owners are celebrating that they’re BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color), women-owned, or LGBTQ+ owned or celebrating that they support members of these communities,” Zhen said.
Cheese. Meats. Olives. Fruits. Maybe a jam. Or perhaps a piece of chocolate. What’s not to like? The highly customizable nature of charcuterie boards makes them a crowd pleaser or a simple date night favorite.
“They’re flexible and adaptable. They’re fun,” Zhen said. “You can go as fancy or as simple as you’d like. It’s also a way to support our local food producers. We have some excellent cheese and meat producers in the Hudson Valley…”
Zhen noted that charcuterie boards are also a fun way to try something new like “boar sausage or a raw milk cheese.”
Zhen isn’t the only one who sees the trend: a report by the National Restaurant Association agrees.
As any Hudson Valley resident can tell you, we have an abundance of locally crafted beverages, usually citing those of the alcoholic variety.
“The Hudson Valley has really become a destination for wines, ciders, craft beers, and distilled sprits,” Zhen said. “Visitors come from all over to eat and drink, and what’s cooler than being able to have a locally produced beverage and to be able to take some of it home as a souvenir. It’s nice to support the beverage industry in this area and it’s even cooler to drink something made in your backyard.”
Zhen added she’s also seen an uptick of non-alcoholic or “soft” beverages gaining momentum in the area, including kombucha. A fizzy tea drink, kombucha is believed to have health benefits.
“Kombucha is said to help with the immune system and to help with digestion,” Zhen said. “I can’t speak to the health claims. But I can tell you it’s a refreshing drink when you want something different.”
Wood agrees, noting that she’s also seen an increase in local as well as national brands lining grocery store shelves.
Also in the world of beverages is functional water which, according to Wood, “is water enhanced by supplemental ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, acids, herbs, raw fruits/vegetables to provide health benefits.
“This is currently one of the fastest growing segments of the beverage industry and something that we’ll continue to see in 2023,” Wood said.
Something a little different, is the rise in popularity of canned or tinned fish like sardines, squid and more.
“Some top items that come to mind are lemon and olive sardines, mackerel with lemon and capers, sofrito mussels, squid with tomato, and smoked rainbow trout,” Wood said. “These items are being treated as full dinners when paired with bread, cut vegetables, pickles, charcuterie, cheese, etc.”
As pre-pandemic life reemerges and people are looking for the feeling of nostalgia, they’re turning to comfort foods. Whether their experimenting with recipes from their youth or looking for simple recipes.
“People are cooking and reinterpreting recipes from various time periods and making them their own or just reliving a memory,” Wood said. “Through apps like TikTok we’re seeing people relive their school lunches or holiday food memories as well as putting a spin on classics to make them their own.”
The National Restaurant Association report also predicts comfort food as a 2023 trend.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have changed the way they shop for their groceries. From the beginning when everyone was wiping off their groceries to curbside pick-ups to contactless payments, in three years we’ve seen huge changes in the way people shop.
“Consumers are also being smarter about where and how they’re shopping,” Zhen said. “What started as a way to adjust during the pandemic has become part of life. Pretty much every grocery store offers some type of curbside pick-up where someone does the shopping for you. It’s a great time saver. It also gets rid of the hassle of getting kids in and out of a store.”
Zhen added that people are also checking out new grocery stores, including those considered “discount grocery stores.”
“Discount grocery stores aren’t just known for their low prices anymore,” Zhen said. “Some discount grocery chains offer really high-quality food.”
Heather Clark covers food and dining for Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties for the Poughkeepsie Journal and Middletown Times Herald-Record. Contact her at [email protected].