What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast: cannabis, CBD, zero-waste, global breakfast

CBD- and cannabis-infused food and beverages are top-ranking trends in the results of the What’s Hot Chef Survey, published in the What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast. Other top trends include zero-waste cooking, globally-inspired dishes and vegetable-forward cuisine. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) prepares The What’s Hot Chef Culinary Forecast in partnership with the American Culinary Federation. The Survey asked chefs to rank items as “hot,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite” to develop a good trend map of the food themes and trends that matter at the start of 2019.

What were the top trends in the What’s Hot Culinary Forecast? These trends were at the top of the list:

  1. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused drinks
  2. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused food
  3. Zero-waste cooking
  4. Globally-inspired breakfast dishes
  5. Global flavors in kids’ meals
  6. Hyper-local
  7. New cuts of meat
  8. Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine
  9. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
  10. Craft/artisan/locally produced spirits

Said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association, “We’re seeing a more eco-friendly perspective and greater emphasis on global flavors/cuisines as well as enhanced availability of healthful items/children’s meals and the exploration of new food sourcing options.” A total of 77 percent of chefs ranked cannabis & CBD-infused drinks as the top trend and 76 percent selected cannabis & CBD-infused food as a secondary top trend. Seventy percent of chefs ranked zero-waste cooking as the tertiary top trend, followed by globally-inspired breakfast.

[Related article: The restaurant trends of 2019]

The report’s top trend pick synchronizes with a Top 2019 Restaurant Trends report from Baum + Whiteman, a global foodservice consultancy. Baum + Whiteman picked CBD and cannabis a top trend for restaurants in 2019. In 2018, CCD Helmsman picked cannabis cuisine as one of the (top) Trends That Mattered for 2018. Top restaurant industry experts and the American Culinary Chefs agree that the cannabis/CBD food market offers new opportunities and opens up markets for restaurateurs.


[Related article: Cannabis impacting food industry]

According to the What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast, three of the 15 hottest items are plant-based sausages/burgers, veggie-centric/vegetable forward cuisine and plant-based proteins. A veggie-forward sentiment is becoming significant to consumers. Yet, even though proteins are still important to consumers, (60 percent of them want more in their diet), according to research firm NPD, plant-based proteins are also playing a larger role in diets.

What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast video. Video by NRA.

The 2018 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council indicates a total of 57 percent of consumers feel they are getting less fruits and vegetables than experts recommend, so veggie-forward meal options are a significant revenue opportunity and customer draw this year and beyond. Even more indicative of consumer sentiment around plant-based foods is this statistic: 46 percent of consumers, believe plant-based proteins are healthier than animal proteins, according to Mintel, a top research firm.


Chefs are turning their attention to zero-waste cooking and using ingredients that would have normally made their way to the trash. Coffee grinds used in homemade ice cream made on-premises is just one example, among many that are surfacing.

The What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast also indicated hyper-local produce, ingredients and foods would be a top trend, as well as new cuts of meat.

The What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast indicates these are the top dish trends:

  1. Globally inspired breakfast dishes
  2. Vegetable carb substitutes (e.g. cauliflower rice, zucchini spaghetti)
  3. Street food-inspired dishes (e.g. tempura, kabobs, dumplings)
  4. Katso Sando (Japanese cutlet sandwich)
  5. Housemade/ artisan pickles

Among condiments, the American Culinary Federation chefs chose these as the hottest for 2019:

  1. Housemade condiments/specialty condiments
  2. North African condiments (dukka, zhug, harissa, ras el hanout, etc.)
  3. Shichimi spice/powder
  4. Gochujang (Korean red-pepper paste)
  5. Berbere

[Related: Mintel reveals top spice trends that foodservice, restaurants] can tap]

Berbere and ras el hanout made the list of top picks by Mintel during 2018 and Gochujang and harissa have fared prominently in culinary conversations for the last few years.


The impact from global cuisines, flavors on restaurant cuisine in the U.S. is growing. Experts have agreed that North African cuisine and flavors are influencing chefs in restaurant kitchens. Peruvian cuisine is evident in Latin American concepts and fast-casual chicken chains popping up across the country. Ethiopian cuisine continues to appeal to diners looking for a flavorful, differentiated experience.

Hera are the What’s Hot 2019 Culinary Forecast top global flavor trends:

  1. North African cuisine, flavors (fuul, tajines, etc.)
  2. West African cuisine/flavors
  3. Peruvian cuisine
  4. Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine/flavors (Berbere, injera)
  5. Filipino cuisine

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