By Donna Berry
KANSAS CITY — According to the “What’s Hot” culinary forecast from the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C., international flavors continue to influence the menus of all types of restaurants, with African flavors being the hottest new cuisine to be explored by chefs around the country. Middle Eastern flavors are also gaining traction, with both ethnic cuisines identified as a mover and shaker (up 5% or more from the 2015 forecast).
This annual survey of nearly 1,600 professional chefs explores the top menu trends for the coming year. And while African, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Mediterranean are the top five ethnic flavor trends, what the chefs have also identified as being hot is for recipes to be authentic. In other words, more culinary experts are using traditional cooking methods and real herbs and spices to deliver the ethnic flavor, versus a flavored seasoning blend concocted in a laboratory. The chefs also recognized opportunities in ethnic fusion cuisine, where flavors and foods from two cultures come together in unique ways. Think teriyaki tacos and peri peri veal parmesan.
The Spotted Monkey, a recently opened Latin American-Asian restaurant in Chicago’s Financial District, is all about ethnic fusion. The concept provides diners a new approach to enjoying ethnic specialties, with many based on meat and poultry. It’s the result of proprietor Amy Le working with her diversely staffed kitchens during the past four years since she became a luminary of the Chicago food truck scene. Ms. Le listened to her colleagues reminisce about their varied hometowns and native cultures, from El Salvador, Guatemala and Puerto Rico to Korea. Ms. Le herself, who is of Vietnamese descent, grew up working in her mother’s Chinese restaurants in St. Louis…..Ready more