Gluten-free menu items and kale salads are so yesterday, but expect locally sourced and environmentally sustainable foods to be very much in vogue when dining out in the new year.
At least that's what chefs across the country are promising in a survey meant to identify the hot culinary and beverage trends of 2015.
Environmental consciousness, as it did last year, dominates the list of top priorities among restaurants, especially the preference for produce, meats and seafood that come from local purveyors.
Restaurants are simply catering to more sophisticated palates at a time when consumers seemingly care more about where their food comes from, says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association, which each year releases its "What's Hot" culinary forecast.
Locally sourced meats and seafood
Locally grown produce
Healthful kids' meals
Largest drop in "hot trend" rating.
Nose-to-tail-cooking (where every part of the animal is used)
House-made soft drinks
Source: National Restaurant Association
"As consumers today increasingly incorporate restaurants into their daily lives, they want to be able to follow their personal preferences and philosophies no matter where or how they choose to dine," said Riehle. "So, it's only natural that culinary themes like local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition top our list of menu trends for 2015."
There may be a little wishful thinking, though, going on among some chefs who don't always live up to their culinary boasts about local sourcing, says San Diego restaurant consultant Tom Kelley. He also points out that a lot of diners are often unwilling to pay more for menu items that incorporate the more costly ingredients that come from local producers and farms.
"I think a lot of chefs and restaurants say that, but then you'll see the semi-truck that pulls up to the back door with a product that's mass distributed, so I'm not sure they're being true to their word about things being sustainable or local," Kelley said.
There are a number of notable exceptions, though. Among them, says Kelley, are the Hotel del Coronado, which has its own beachfront herb garden that it draws from for some of its restaurant dishes, and the Red Door in Mission Hills that also has its own garden, off-site.
While gluten-free cuisine was very much a ubiquitous trend on restaurant menus in 2014, placing fifth on the what's hot list, it fell to 12th place for 2015, replaced by natural ingredients and minimally processed food.
In all, the locally sourced and sustainable food categories occupied five of the top 10 trends for next year. Rounding out the list are healthful kids menus, new cuts of meat, food waste reduction and farm-branded items.
In assembling its culinary forecast, the restaurant association asked the chefs, who are members of the American Culinary Federation, to peruse a list of 231 items and rate each item as a "hot trend," "yesterday's news" or "perennial favorite" for 2015 restaurant menus.
While doughnuts, ethnic condiments and grass-fed beef gained in popularity in this year's survey, bruschetta, kale salads, nose-to-tail cooking, hybrid desserts (think cronuts and ice cream cupcakes), and house-made soft drinks all took substantial dips, the restaurant association reported.
And for those diners who are consumed with photographing their food and sharing their pics via social media, have at it, say chefs. Nearly three in five chefs said it's free advertising and should be encouraged.