What We’re Learning From Culinary Curators


Here are the top food trends I’m currently tracking.

1. Los Angeles: the food city of the moment (Source: LA Times)

  • So many trends start here: avocado toast, things in a bowl, Egg Slut, Kogi food trucks.
  • The line between high and low is being obliterated: a chef in a truck can be as talented and respected as a chef in a temple of cuisine
  • Also tracking what the culinary curators lined up for the major West Coast festivals (Coachella, of course, and in June, the Arroyo Seco Weekend at the Rose Bowl)
  • Coming out of those events: More Asian cuisine with items made with Matcha and Poke Bowls still big.
  • The discovery and sharing of food has become just as important as discovering and sharing music. “I knew [band] before it was cool” has turned into “I ate that before it was cool,” because unique food with quality ingredients is more accessible than ever. And given the marketing power of social media, it’s more picturesque. (Source: LA Weekly)

Read on below for more on Mexican influences, and my take on what the popularity of Le Coucou vs. Le Cirque tells us about shifting tastes and trends not only in food but in real estate, society and culture in NYC.

2. Mexican Influences

  • Love Fany Gerson and what she is creating with Newyorkina and Dough
  • Her La Newyorkina Mexican-style popsicles (paletas) are sold out of carts on the High Line in NYC. The flavors and toppings are fantastic especially love the pineapple jalapeno with chili powder toppings.
  • Recently saw her interviewed about her newest venture, Dough, one of the hottest donut places around town. I was impressed to hear her talk about how her native Mexico inspires her flavors.

So Just How Much Do We Love Mexican Restaurants? (Source: CHD North America)

  • 59,800 Mexican restaurants in the United States
  • Mexican Menus represent 9% of all restaurants in the USA.
  • 58% of Mexican restaurants are Full Service; 42% are Limited Service (of which Taco Bell accounts for 42%).
  • There are only a handful of Fine Dining Mexican restaurants across the nation e.g. Rick Bayless’s TOPOLOBAMPO in Chicago, which grosses more than $5 Million annually and a $50+ average check. In NYC, it’s all about Cosme.
  • Texas is #1 in terms of total Mexican restaurants with 18% of the state’s restaurants being Mexican, two times higher than the national average. Texas is followed by New Mexico (14%), California (13%), Arizona (13%), and Colorado (12%).
  • Mexican has recently edged out Pizzerias for the second most common non-simplified US menu type (pizzerias now in third position).


3. Ceviche

  • Huge fan of this Latin answer to sushi or sashimi. Happy to see it showing up year round on menus all around the country.
  • Sadly, however, it is often disappointing.
  • The very best I had recently was at The Optimist in Atlanta. The list of disappointments is long and includes Mission Ceviche at the Gansevoort Market in NYC which I had heard was amazing but considered meh, the ceviche at Espita Mezcaleria in DC also meh and, unfortunately, the shrimp ceviche at Ludlow House was double meh!


4. Sushi Tacos, Poke style – the latest food mashup

  • This looks amazing. Must check it out ASAP.
  • In NYC, Takumi Taco is the chain that seems to get the best ratings. Will report back.
  • Got its start in Vegas (Tail and Fin) and LA. A combination of poke, rice, served in a seaweed taco shell.


5. Casualization: Less Fine Dining (Source: Chef Graham Elliot)

  • Have to agree with Graham Elliot when he says that upscale fine dining – along with its inherent fussiness – will be relegated to small settings with hotels (or other major backers) putting up the money. The economics do not make sense otherwise.
  • He predicts it will be cool with the hipster crowd to open more nostalgic old school Italian and French places e.g. red-sauce pasta joints and chefs-in-toques serving duck with the head on.


6. Le Coucou vs. Le Cirque: A Tale of Shifting Tastes Told Thru Real Estate, Decor and Menu

Le Coucou (top), Le Cirque (below)

  • When I reviewed Le Coucou (THE best new restaurant in NYC) back in October 2016, I was struck by how much it reminded me of the classic French restaurants of the 70’s but without any of the pretense, fussiness and stodginess of those Upper East Side spots.
  • Le Coucou is cool with great energy and ambiance and feels young and lively vs. some of the uptown fancy places – I mean look at that carpeting at Le Cirque (lower pic above). Doesn’t it conjure up a convention center?
  • This excellent article in Bloomberg provides great examples of how over the course of 20 years, the center of culture and society shifted from uptown to downtown.
  • Here’s a great quote that sums up what happened:
  • In the old days, it was considered absolutely déclassé to live in a condominium,” said Donna Olshan, founder of Olshan Realty and publisher of the weekly Olshan Luxury Report. Suddenly, condos began to look appealing. “These new things being built were really beautiful from an architectural standpoint, and they had all of these amenities and infrastructure,” she said. That meant looking outside of the Upper East Side neighborhood, for the most part.
  • Art, culture, society, the culinary world and real estate are tightly interwoven and when downtown became linked with lofty art-filled condos and celebrities, it was over for the uptowners – at least for a while. We will see if The Grill in what was formerly the Four Seasons catches on in Midtown. It’s brought to us from the Carbone guys – and a $15M renovation. I’m not convinced but you can never say never in NYC.


7. The hottest emerging food trends for retail investors for 2017 from Australia (Source: Future Food and NH Architecture)

  • In the lead-up to The Urban Developer’s event ‘Food is the New Black: The Importance of Experience and Customer-Centric Design in Delivering Successful Retail Precincts,’ here’s what Francis Loughran of Future Food and Roger Nelson of NH Architecture consider the top future food trends to follow in 2017.
  • Integrated Food Halls: The next generation of cluster dining – the one-stop-shop for fresh food, prepared food, wine and liquor sales, and other food related matters.
  • Nordic Delights: Nordic Design has been ‘in’ for a long time, but now Nordic food is getting a run. It’s food created around the seasons, based around plants with a touch of fish or dairy
  • Korean: Korean bumped Mexican off its perch (in Australia) and it’s going to be shining in the spotlight for just a little bit longer we think.
  • Elevated Food Courts: High-end food courts such as the cafe court in Emporium, Melbourne are fast becoming the standard for offering people diversity in food choices as well as luxury in their surroundings.

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