Keeping up with world food trends is becoming a form of physical exercise.
With the increasingly rapid advances in mobile and online technology, trends in the way we eat are reaching more people and shifting more quickly than ever.
And with food media on the forefront of popular culture – from YouTube channels to TV cooking competitions to feature films and documentaries linking travel, culture and cuisine like never before – it’s now cool to care about food.
On a superficial level, certain trends may rise and fall sharply – elevated bar snacks, a torrid love affair with wood-fired pizza, fancy takes on toast.
But how people interact with food, and development in how we appreciate the labour, processes and ingredients that go into our meals, do have staying power.
And it’s precisely that sort of appreciation that has taken root in Bangkok.
Last year the city’s food scene moved toward artisanal ingredients and meals geared toward health and wellness. At the same time, top chefs began to put greater emphasis on home-style cuisine.
In 2017 those trends look likely to evolve while critical cultural and social issues lay the foundation for new ones to emerge.
Before the novelty ebbs and Bangkok flows on to other foodie fads, get acquainted with these trends taking over tables and supermarkets around town.
One year ago, an Australian-based food rescue group called OzHarvest introduced Bangkok to THINK.EAT.SAVE, a program aimed at reducing the world’s food waste (a shocking 1.3 billion tonnes of perfectly good food is wasted each year, amounting to one-third of all food produced worldwide).
Chefs from Bo.lan, Nahm, La Monita, Grand Hyatt and the Dusit Thani prepared gourmet dishes from food otherwise destined for the rubbish bin and served them for free to the public on the concourse outside Siam Paragon.
Food waste hasn’t become any less of any issue, of course. According to the FAO, food production is struggling to keep up with global population growth to the point that the world risks a food crisis on a life-altering scale.
Events such as THINK.EAT.SAVE help to put this crisis in simpler, and more tangible, terms. And so do campaigns by forward-looking entrepreneurs, such as Scholars of Sustenance (SOS).
Run by former F&B professionals, SOS acquires food waste from hotels and supermarkets, turning the inedible waste into compost while cooking fresh meals with the edible food and redistributing it to needy communities.
Chef, Artist, Educator
Chefs, the really good ones especially, don’t just cook our dinners anymore. They entertain, create pieces of art and, more so than ever, educate.
According to Future of Food,an annual report released by CatchOn, a premier communications and consultancy agency, “In the future, chefs will need to be equal parts storyteller and technical master.”
We’re already seeing this in the rise of the chef’s table, a style of fine dining in which small groups get seated in private rooms and treated to special menus from the head chefs themselves. From Meatlicious to the Water Library to Aston, the chef’s table is now a ubiquitous fixture on Bangkok’s fine dining scene.
Chefs have also become conscious of their platform and power on a playful level.
Classes such as Rocket’s “Fun with Rum” and So Sofitel’s chocolate making lessons, for example, have empowered home cooks and aspiring bartenders, equipping them with the skills and confidence to create great things at home.
In 2017, look for more chefs to expand their repertoires outside the kitchen.
Fighting Fake Ingredients
Non-GMO, organic, all-natural – sadly, it’s hard to know if the products we purchase are what they’re supposed to be anymore.
According to OCEANA Association, one in five seafood samples are intentionally mislabelled. And Italian extra virgin olive oil? Roughly 80 percent of it isn’t Italian, extra virgin or, in many cases, made from olives alone.
The only way to truly combat this is by developing new skills to create food from scratch. Chefs are already onto this idea, and it’s only a matter of time until the home cook is onto it, as well.
At La Vue Chef Gilles Poitevin makes everything he can from scratch, from the breads to the stocks and sauces. Joe Sloane, Bangkok’s eminent butcher, sources his meat only from farms where the animals are treated well. And the folks at Raitong Organics Farm not only produce 100-percent organic goods – they’ve also initiated projects to help reduce the carbon footprint of Thai rice farmers.
From fermenting to farming to butchering and breadmaking, “all-natural” in 2017 means taking total ownership over your food items.
Going Back to the Basics
Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn took the city by storm when he opened Le Du, an upscale restaurant serving Thai dishes made from seasonal Thai ingredients.
Then he opened Baan, another fine dining venue that revisits old family recipes. After that? Baa Ga Din, a stab at giving Thai street food a facelift.
Cuisine is a cultural ensign, linking past and present. Throughout Bangkok, chefs are returning to their roots, scaling back menus to offer easily accessible dishes to diners that evoke a sense of nostalgia and express their cultural identities.
Paolo Vitaletti shares his Italian upbringing through rustic Roman fare at Appia. Jeriko van der Wolf conveys the adoration for cooking he gained at an early age through simple French dishes. Gaggan Anand (although scaling down nothing) explores his Indian roots through his unique brand of culinary trompe-l’oeil.
For chefs this year, going back to the basics doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or technique, but rather putting a part of their lives on the plate.