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San Francisco Chefs Weigh In: Food Trends to Try (or Skip) in 2018

By / February 8, 2018
   Grace Sager.
   Grace Sager.

It’s a food trend storm out there, folks. Hop on Instagram and you’ll be besieged with charcoal, unicorns, and a million ways to caption the Impossible Burger. In this beginning-of-the-year haze of food trends, which ones are worth the hype?

We interviewed four Bay Area chefs to find out what ingredients they’re stoked about in 2018, what food trends you should add to your annual culinary bucket list, and which ones you can ignore.

Claire Margine

Kathy Fang, Chef and Co-Owner of Fang Restaurant

What ingredients are you excited about in 2018?

  • Ethnic spices: I’m excited about ingredients like shichimi, peri peri, and harissa. I love spices and I enjoy seeing them appearing on menus more now.
  • Edible flowers and herbs like pea flowers, lemon balm, and cilantro flowers.
  • Alternative gluten-free and low-carb products for tortillas, noodles, and bread.

 

2018 food trend to try:

  • Taiwanese cuisine: Various Asian cuisines that are less known are starting to surface and are becoming more and more popular, like modern Hawaiian cuisine and modern Filipino cuisine. This past summer, when I visited Hong Kong, little Mom and Pop Taiwanese eateries were popping up everywhere and drawing lines. It brought me back to the food I enjoyed back in the day when I visited Taipei, so I’ve been rather inspired by some of those classic Taiwanese dishes. I introduced one this year onto our menu and am working on bringing in two or three more dishes that are influenced by Taiwanese cuisine.

 

2018 food trend to skip:

  • Creative croissants: You see croissants stuffed and flavored with all sorts of wild, crazy ingredients like Spam and nori. I like my croissants done the classic way and prepared to perfection. Once you start messing with it too much, you lose focus on baking the perfect croissant, which leads to a subpar pastry with odd flavor combos. I really hope this trend goes away soon. Just give me a butter croissant or an almond croissant!
  • Desserts made for Instagrammers: Can we stop with the gimmicks of unicorn this and unicorn that? Everything now has to be made to look like something magical on Instagram, when at the end of the day, it’s just the same darn thing accessorized by things we don’t need. Thai rolled ice cream looks beautiful, but does it really taste better than actual ice cream? Enough with the Instagram desserts! Give me something that just tastes amazing.

 

Claire Margine

George Meza, Executive Chef at Onsen

What ingredients are you excited about in 2018?

  • Pickled tea leaves: I’m very excited to experiment with fermented and pickled ingredients. An ingredient that is particularly interesting to me is pickled tea leaves. Known as lahpet and used throughout Burmese cooking, this ingredient is definitely underrated, as it remains relatively unknown to Western diners.

 

2018 food trend to try:

  • Vegetable-driven options: I believe that this year, there will be a larger demand for healthier dining, with an emphasis on meatless options. At Onsen, we keep our menu around 80 percent vegetable-based and make our own pickles, ferments, and kombuchas in-house. As the year progresses, I plan to continue to highlight vegetable-driven options as well as experiment with new pickling techniques and fermented ingredients.

 

2018 food trend to skip:

  • Activated charcoal: To me, this feels more like a gimmick than a thoughtful use of an ingredient.

 

Contrada SF

Denise St. Onge, Executive Chef at Contrada

What ingredients are you excited about in 2018?

  • Artichokes, duck, and asparagus: We have a gorgeous new wood fired grill that, when you suspend a duck breast over it for long enough, renders the fat just perfectly for a beautiful, fragile, crisp skin and gives a wonderful slightly smoky aroma and flavor. I’m currently dreaming of pairing that crispy skin with fresh asparagus, kumquats, and a lavender-citrus glaze. And artichokes are one of my favorite things on earth, so I just naturally get excited about them every year.

 

2018 food trend to try:

  • Fermentation: Although I feel like chefs have been commonly using fermented ingredients forever, I have heard that it is a major mainstream trend this year. I am currently using and plan to be using fermented chilis, cabbage, soy beans, garlic, shallots—you name it. A successful fermentation is always amazing.

 

2018 food trend to skip:

  • Nope! I can’t think of any. I think good food is always worth the hype. I’ve spent my entire life chasing it around the world, and will continue to do so until the day I die.

 

James Bueti

Manish Tyagi, Executive Chef at August (1) Five

What ingredients are you excited about in 2018?

  • New applications for innovative ingredients: I’m excited to experiment with dried pomegranate, plantain, lotus root, and dried lemongrass powder.
  • Homemade pickles: We’re introducing these this year!

 

2018 food trend to try:

  • Gut-friendly and nootropic ingredients: As so many diners shift their focus to healthy eating and fresh, organic ingredients, I plan to explore gut-friendly ingredients as well as those with nootropic effects as they relate to the Indian tradition of Ayurveda.

 

2018 food trend to skip:

  • Tired of the same old, same old: Honestly, I am tired of seeing familiar Indian dishes on menus such as butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, and saag paneer, and I hope to see more innovation in Indian dining in San Francisco.

 

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Claire Margine is a writer living in San Francisco. She’s a fan of daycations, dumplings for breakfast, and bottomless coffee. You can usually find her at the beach, or asking if she can pet your dog.

More articles by Claire Margine

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