Karla Salinas, owner of Karla’s Kitchen in Flourtown, plans to incorporate more kale in her cooking this year. (Photo by April Lisante)

By April Lisante

This week, as we all scramble to uphold our New Year’s resolutions by hitting the gym or trying out a Dry January, chefs are in their kitchens cooking up their own goals for 2020.

Trend watchers say that this will be the year we will see an uptick in healthier foods when dining out, as well as an increase in healthier fast food options and deliveries. While food delivery will boom, there will be an increase in plant-based options, as well as experimentation with things like fermented foods and bone broths.

Health is most definitely on the brain – and stomach.

After speaking with chefs up and down the Avenue, this same overriding theme emerged locally.

I’m calling 2020 The Year of Cooking with a Conscience.

Of all the chefs I polled, the need for healthy options, gluten free foods and a nod to the seasonal and organic was mentioned repeatedly.

It turns out locals have been very vocal this past year about what they want when they dine out, from organic entrees to gluten-free baked goods. Many of the requests aren’t based upon dietary restrictions. They are simply commitments to getting healthier.

“I get a lot of requests for gluten free desserts,” said Night Kitchen Bakery owner Amy Edelman. “Like several a week.”

So Edelman is adding more gluten-free options to her repertoire, which already includes two types of macaroons and a flourless chocolate cake.

“I have really been thinking a lot about adding more gluten-free desserts,” she said. “We just have so many requests.”

At Tavern on the Hill, chef Gerard Strenger is also resolving to add more gluten-free options to the menu since he went gluten-free himself. Owner Kathyn Egan says the requests are coming not only from those with Celiac Disease, but those who voluntarily are shunning gluten to improve their overall health.

“We want more gluten free entrees and some new gluten free items, like breads” she said.

The restaurant also has another goal for 2020: going green. They’ve already outlawed plastic straws, replacing them with ones made from hay, but the ultimate goal is to eliminate plastic carry out containers this year, and to step up their composting routine.

“We really should get rid of plastic take-out. We do composting already,” said Egan, “but we want to get more involved with that.”

Over at Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, locals will benefit from a company-wide effort to add healthier options to the menu this month. Like many local chefs, chef Daniel Keown will be rolling out some new entrees, complete with calorie counts. If you head to Iron Hill this month, you’ll find a tofu bowl with pho noodles, a Mediterranean salmon with orzo, and a seared tuna with sautéed vegetables on the menu.

“We are starting to transition into adding vegan and healthy options,” Keown said.

Another way you’ll see chefs switching it up this year is with their use of ingredients.

At the Chestnut Hill Brewing Company Taproom, chef Joshua Northcutt is focusing on “thinking outside the box,” according to owner Lindsey Pete, and “putting food on the menu that people may not see every day such as acorn squash and mushroom bacon.”

“He is focused on letting people know that healthy food can be really flavorful and taste good,” she said.

Karla Salinas, owner of Karla’s Kitchen in Flourtown, has quite a following of locals who depend on her from-scratch entrees and sides for dinner many a night. She makes homemade empanadas, crab cakes and foods that pull from her Peruvian heritage. But she’s also been thinking about how she can incorporate healthier options into her 2020 menus.

”I want to increase more vegetables and grilled chicken,” Salinas said. “I want to change heavy dressing for vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper.”

And she wants to increase her usage of super veggies like kale and spinach.

Cake’s Jameson O’Donnell is of the same mind. He aims to use not only use more fresh ingredients but to step up his commitment to seasonal items. The promise comes from his own resolution to get healthier.

“I definitely want to eat less processed foods and more whole grains and vegetables this year,” O’Donnell said.

Do you have some juicy food news or a food story you’d like to see me write about? Email aprillisante@gmail.com and I will investigate. Have a kitchen fixer-upper project you are planning on tackling this winter? Email me your story and I will take a look for an upcoming food column.

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