2014 proves to be a year of extremes in culinary world

As every chef and culinary website is releasing its 2014 food trend predictions, I have begun to make some of my own. From what I see experts saying and observe myself from different restaurants, I predict this will be the year of extremes. To be healthy, or not to be healthy? That is the question.

It is interesting to me that when reading the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2014” list, almost all of the top trends have to do with local foods. Local meats, sea foods and produce all hold spots in the top 10 trends of the year. Another spot is held by environmental stability, and this seems to be a recurring theme for the year: healthy, organic, sustainable and simple foods.

Healthy food markets are finally going mainstream. According to Baum+Whittman’s “12 Hottest Food and Beverage Trends,” this change is caused by multiple factors including “gluten-rejectors, Paleo people, diabetics, weight challenged, Vegetarians, vegans… and perhaps the First Lady.”

organic produce

This once-small business is now taking over, and quickly. According to the Food Navigator-USA, the U.S. organic food market is projected to grow 14% from 2013 to 2018. It also said that in 2012, 81% of American families reported that they purchase organic foods at least sometimes, with total sales at $81.3 billion. This all means that organic, locally grown and farm-to-plate are all terms that you should continue to see even more of this year.

It also means that more shops will be opening up that are health conscience. I expect there to be more juice bars, vegan bakeries and “raw” snacks as this trend continues to rise. Also, I see fast food chains providing healthier options in a fight to gain back some of the costumers they have lost.

But while some people enjoy munching on raw veggies and kale salads, others enjoy chowing down on food that is completely different and almost the polar opposite. There has been a strong backlash to all these healthy foods, which has led to fatty, over-the-top delicious selections in 2014.

According to “Technomic’s Take: 10 Trends for 2014,” there will be tons of cheese melts, creamy sauces, fried appetizers and doughnut-based sandwiches. At the same restaurant that has locally sourced tofu salads, there will also be things on the menu like five-cheese macaroni with bacon and a buttered crumb topping.

As many people have began to eat more and more healthy, it seems like fast food industries have started to go to ridiculous extents to lure people back to their cramp-inducing foods. From KFC’s Double Down (two strips of bacon and cheese between two slices of fried chicken “buns”) to Jack in the Box’s stacked grilled cheeseburger (a cheeseburger topped with a grilled cheese sandwich), fast food companies have been taking it to the extreme. No wonder our country has an obesity problem.

jack in the box

What is the average person to do with this ever-long battle between healthy and unhealthy? My answer? Think for yourself and live somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

-Helaine Ridilla