As 2022 arrives, chefs see many exciting industry changes on the way, from the way we eat to what we eat.
Happy New Year foodies! It’s a New Year, and you know what that means: I’m excited once again about all the dining and food possibilities this year will bring.
Last year, as my 2021 New Year’s food trends column unfolded, restaurants were just reopening after a long hiatus, welcoming back foodies to actual tables instead of take-out windows. In the column, I spoke with chefs who predicted we’d all be excited to get out and have table service once again, and to enjoy some real restaurant hospitality. The column also predicted that at-home chefs who were sick of cooking and were pining for exotic travel would be looking for more culturally diverse menus. And chefs noted that there would be an increased interest in probiotics and healthier, immune-boosting foods.
While most of last year’s predictions did ring true, the dining industry is still adapting and shifting during these constantly changing and uncertain times. Just this week, the city mandated that patrons must be fully vaccinated to enter restaurants. And some eateries are scrambling to figure out heated outdoor seating - again.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. As 2022 arrives, chefs see many exciting industry changes on the way, from the way we eat to what we eat. Many spent the year honing their skills amidst a new normal and are ready to bring something new to the table and to the experience of dining out this year.
So what will be trending this year in our local restaurants, and more specifically, on our plates?
First and foremost, healthier foods seem to be on chefs’ minds. Without a doubt, probiotics, plant-based options and healthier, lighter fare are all here to stay. Health is still a top priority, especially when it comes to immunity, and chefs are on board with offering new options, especially during the winter, when immunity is always an issue.
“Watch for more immune-boosting salads and plant-based sandwiches,” Tavern on the Hill chef Gerard Strenger promised of his 2022 menu. No worry, Strenger still makes a mean lamb stew. Strenger says he will also be combatting the ever-present supply chain issues chefs are facing by “featuring locally-sourced ingredients.”
At the Chestnut Grill & Sidewalk Café in Chestnut HIll, chef John Arena has already begun offering new appetizers and entrees. One of his new creations is cornmeal crusted catfish tacos with roasted fresh corn salsa, a slaw and chipotle cream in flour tortillas.
“Our customers are going to be looking for healthier, smaller portion options,” Arena said.
And at Wyndmoor’s Enza, chef Carlos Aparicio is already plotting his 2022 menu.
“I think in 2022 we will see more demand for vegetable-based offerings and healthier presentations of traditional entrees,” Aparicio said.
When it comes to where we dine, the importance of small, cozy spots can’t be underestimated this coming year, as the need to be a part of the community and the lure of comfort food beckons.
Eric Connor, owner of Wyndmoor’s Irish comfort food haven Yankee Chipper, carefully crafted his menu with this in mind. The Willow Grove Ave. restaurant, which debuted this past July, features things like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and even a vegan Sloppy Joe. Connor believes his cozy atmosphere featuring family-style tables, live music and comforting fare defines what restaurants will aim for this year.
“I think that comfort food and community and quote unquote small places are really what’s happening right now,” Connor said. “There’s a certain connectivity people are starting to gravitate back toward. It’s not so much about trendy, it’s about community.”
And lest we forget about how we survived last winter, take-out will still be king this year, chefs predict. With so much uncertainty surrounding our health to start the new year, chefs like David Jansen of Jansen restaurant in Mount Airy, aren’t pumping the brakes on high-end meals to go.
“We’re going to lean heavily on take out again [this year],” Jansen said. “Take out will be a thing again in 2022.”
If all this talk of change for 2022 ruffles your foodie feathers, remember the more things change, sometimes they still stay the same.
Just ask Tamarindo’s owner Fernando Sauri, who plans to stick with tradition at his Yucatan-inspired Flourtown restaurant.
“I believe that people are going to keep the traditions,” said Sauri. “The menu [here] will be the same. In the end, everything is going to be the same.”