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Food trends

From vegan fare to pea protein, here’s what we’re eating in 2020.

By Lisa Witepski

, |

Food trends

From vegan fare to pea protein, here’s what we’re eating in 2020.

By Lisa Witepski

, |

Goodbye, fussy foams. Sayonara, gel and flavoured air (what was that, anyway?). According to South Africa’s leading foodies, this year ushers in a new era that emphasises the basics – perhaps less fancy, but infinitely more authentic.

Greta’s influence

It’s a woke new world. As environmental activists like the teenage Greta Thunberg gain more airtime, an increasing number of consumers are taking a look at the impact of their actions. Foodwise, this means that veganism is on the increase, says Chef Eoin Shiell, a lecturer at Capsicum Culinary Studio, adding that top chefs and restaurants are beginning to take note. That’s why we’re seeing a growing demand for ingredients like quinoa, tofu and soya, along with milk substitutes, notes Ruth Marova, a graduate of the Private Hotel School who now works at Reuben’s; and celebrity chef Jenny Morris, also known as the Gigging Gourmet, says that the star foods of the year will include seaweed, jackfruit (an excellent meat replacement), fonio, a protein-rich grain from West Africa, and interesting butters made from nuts. She also predicts a greater number of flexitarians (vegetarians who occasionally give in to their craving for biltong), while most eateries bid single-use plastics a less than fond farewell.

There is a caveat to all of this meat-free munching, however. So says Jackie Righi-Boyd of Dolci Café, who observes that the vegan community has become aware of the unhealthy ingredients included in many replacements for animal products. Consequently, these will fall away as conscious munchers decide to ‘eat clean’ instead.

Linked to the environmental trend, Righi-Boyd says that people are moving back to what’s been produced locally and what’s in season, rather than eating ingredients that have spent five weeks in a container on the way from another part of the world.

Say cheese …

Not the ingredient, but the photo fixer. Shiell says that, as user content continues to proliferate, we can expect to see more social media feeds crammed with posts of ‘doesn’t this look delicious’ plates – which means that the pressure is on chefs to turn out dishes that look even better than they taste. This translates to highly colourful, very well plated food …

All about the flavour

… But being pretty isn’t enough. Thanks to food shows like Chef’s Table, Ugly Delicious, Hell’s Kitchen and The Final Table, highlighting delicacies from around the world, the South African palate is becoming far more adventurous. ‘We’re more informed about food and more likely to try out food markets and ask about ingredients and where our food comes from. At the same time, we’re eating bigger, bolder flavours,’ says Shiell. Righi-Boyd agrees. ‘Food right now is about the enjoyment of the flavour. Let a tomato be a tomato and let the ingredient shine for what it is.’ Marova also applauds the cult of simplicity. ‘Simplicity has always been the ultimate sophistication, but it seems to be making its way back into the industry. Plating skills and techniques have evolved over the years, but 2020 heralds the return of the use of colour and building amazing flavour profiles on plates.’

Let’s share

Your nursery school teacher would be proud: small plates, to be passed around, turn a meal into an interactive experience that allows everyone to try (and talk about) all the different tastes on the table.

Health matters

Sugar’s reputation as the ultimate health villain is set to continue, predicts Marova – and alcohol isn’t far behind it. Non-alcoholic mocktails are replacing boozy favourites (Morris says that coffee-flavoured cocktails are set to be the next big thing), and with this comes an interest in non-alcoholic beverage and food pairings. Fermentation, a trend that started last year, will also be on the rise as more people take an interest in eating for wellness.

What else to look out for

Stock your fridge with cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts, says Morris, or go retro with lasagne, everyone’s ‘new’ old favourite.

Finally, says Morris, your best restaurant may not be a restaurant at all, but a ‘ghost kitchen’ – an eatery that exists solely as a delivery or pick-up restaurant, without an in-house dining option.

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