Top 2018 food trends: National Restaurant Association What’s Hot Chef Survey

The National Restaurant Association released the results of its 2018 “What’s Hot” Chef Survey, conducted in collaboration with the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The annual survey gets input from over 700 chefs and identifies prevailing predictions from over 161 food items. From new cuts of meat to uncommon herbs and global breakfast, these were some notable food trends identified in the survey:

69 PERCENT: New cuts of meat

New cuts of meat – ACF chefs are still fond of new cuts of meat for their versatility and attractive pricing: shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip or a Merlot cut are some trending cuts of meat. A total of 69 percent of ACF chefs voted this a top food trend.

64 PERCENT: House-made condiments

Sixty-four percent of ACF chefs voted house-made condiments are another favorite in the survey. The versatility and culinary range of house-made condiments is part of the popularity. From sriracha ketchup to malt vinegar aioli, these continue to gain popularity.

64 PERCENT: Street-inspired dishes and concepts

Street-inspired dishes and concepts will continue to influence menus across the United States. The ACF chefs note that tempura, kebabs, dumplings and pupusas are examples. Chinese street food with Cantonese influence has been popular as of late. Recent trend predictions point to Southeast Asia and the Southeast Asian Islands, from which to draw new inspiration, as well. An impressive 64 percent of chefs vote this a top food trend.


63 PERCENT: Global breakfast

Global breakfast is the new breakfast (ethnic-inspired breakfast), drawing from flavors typical of dishes from around the world and our own diverse communities. Chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut pancakes or breakfast burritos are some examples offered by the National Restaurant Association. At Republic in Takoma Park, Md., Huevos Rancheros are on the brunch menu: red beans, avocado, spicy tomato sauce, cotija crumbles, and sunny egg. At China Chilcano by José Andrés, Japanese and Chifa influence are visible in several dishes, including in the Jumbo sushi roll selection, with sweet-egg omelette, bok choy, shiitake, and plantain.

61 PERCENT: Vegetable carb substitutes

Interest in carb-friendly substitutes for pasta and rice have led to interesting creations, including cauliflower rice and zucchini spaghetti. Expect to see more of this trend as plant-based proteins and substitutes gain traction. Healthy eating and starch-averse diets are influencing more consumer on-premise dining choices and restaurateurs are refashioning their menus to accommodate this trend. Sixty-one percent of ACF chefs voted vegetable carb substitutes a top trend.

61 PERCENT; Uncommon herbs

Uncommon herbs provide a platform for distinctive flavors. ACF chefs—61 percent of them—voted uncommon herbs a top food trend. Chervil, lovage, lemon balm and papalo are just some spices mentioned that can create differentiated flavor profiles and pique diners’ interests.


61 PERCENT: Authentic global flavors

Authentic global flavors are all the rage today. Many consumers look to taste the world through their dining and eating choices. Fast-casual Indian concept Rasa just opened in the Capitol Riverfront, making Indian cuisine more approachable in the Nation’s Capital Area. Diners are attracted to roadside Mexican eateries and taqueria, and more consumers are looking to savor cuisines from afar. Chefs are helping bring these tastes and concepts to reality as demand for them heighten and 61 percent of ACF chefs indicate it is a top trend. Indian, North African, Thai, Korean and Southeast Asian Island cuisines have been identified as top global flavors.

61 PERCENT: Sustainable Seafood

Looking to protect the environment and future generations, chefs are continuing to explore seafood varieties that are sustainable, including non-endangered fish, species that are not overfished species and also invasive species. Healthful kids’ meals (61 percent) on restaurant menus continue to be hot because they offer fruit, grains and other nutritious options to replace typical fat-heavy favorites like chicken tenders.

60 PERCENT: Global spices

With a heightened interest in authentic global cuisine, comes a desire for a variety of global spices. Research from the National Restaurant Association points to increased demand for harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout and shichimi. Additionally, chili peppers used outside the United States and different types of spicy flavor profiles from abroad are also experiencing their moment in the spotlight thanks for a strong interest in the flavor profiles imported from different regions of the world. Shishito peppers and spicy Korean chicken preparations are examples. Some 60 percent of ACF chefs voted global spices a hot food trend.


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