Restaurant pros dish on the decade’s top food trends — and what they want to go away in 2020
Food delivery apps, fermented everything, gluten allergies, fast casual eateries and plant-based options were some of the legacies of the last 10 years, say San Diego restaurant owners, chefs, pastry chefs and beverage directors
Kombucha, keto, hating on gluten, casual dining and food delivery apps. Those are some of the trends that will define the decade of dining that’s coming to a close on Tuesday.
They’re also among the things that left a bad taste in the mouth of some San Diego restaurant industry professionals.
With the 2010s ending and 2020 beginning, we asked 15 local restaurant owners, managers, chefs, pastry chefs and beverage directors to reflect on the culinary legacies of the past decade, what trends they hope end when the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve and what they predict the future will bring. Here are their (lightly edited) responses.
What will be the culinary legacy of the 2010s?
“A move by chefs to fast casual, sustainability and minimizing waste. Also, being more cognizant and willing to serve the vegan movement — accepting it as more than a lifestyle.” — Frank Vizcarra, owner of Lola 55, East Village
“The 2010s adopted appearance over substance. Food quality and taste were oftentimes left behind in favor of beauty.” — Niccolò Angius, co-founder of Cesarina, Point Loma
“The end of fine dining; social dining and shared plates/small plates. Healthy fast casual was born (Tender Greens and Urban Plates). Eating consciousness — meaning people gave a (bleep) where the food was coming from and who made it. Freezers shrunk and walk-ins got bigger. Social media awareness and vast conversations and global understanding. Anthony Bourdain shrunk the world and made it more approachable and fun to eat the food of the people, aka STREET FOOD!” — Brian Malarkey, chef and partner of Herb & Wood, Animae, et al.
“Elevating classics. Started with the burger, then the taco. Everything got elevated.” — Alex Adler, co-founder of Puesto
“The legacy of the 2010s will be sustainable seafood, produce-driven menus, plant-based protein, over-the-top restaurant build outs and Instagram-able restaurants, creative cocktail programs and revival of classic cocktails.” — Nathan Coulon, culinary director for Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, Point Loma
“There was a wave of people celebrating old American classic desserts but twisting certain ingredients slightly to make them somewhat new or surprising, and then deconstructing them. That style of plating and presentation, for me, is a legacy of the 2010s.” — Samantha Bird, pastry chef at Mille Fleurs, Rancho Santa Fe
“So many! Gluten-free (and paleo, and keto…), regional American food, fermentation (kimchi, kombucha), “Impossible” foods, food shows, third-party delivery (DoorDash, Uber Eats), blogs, Insta, influencers, microbreweries, ‘somm’ wines.” — Andrew Mosblech, director of operations for Urban Kitchen Group
“It definitely seems to me that the legacy of the ‘10s will be two things: farm-to-table/locally sourced ingredients, and ‘craft’ cocktails. Unfortunately, both of those terms are so often applied erroneously that they are at risk of losing their real meaning, but I think enough operators are doing it right, that they are here to stay. People demanding quality, responsibly sourced products is, luckily, not a trend, and something to be grateful for.” — John Resnick, owner of Campfire and Jeune et Jolie, Carlsbad
“Bacon in everything, Brussels, pork belly, gluten-free everything, and fast casual.” — Rachel King, founder and culinary director of Kaneh Co. cannabis edibles
“Culinary legacies that come to mind are avocados, organic everything, natural sweeteners, green tea, local support of farmers and fishermen, grass-fed beef, and less processed foods.” — Deborah Scott, executive chef and partner of Cohn Restaurant Group
“The rise and increased appreciation of small batch, local, artisanal eateries that often specialize in single food groups. People want more than generic, supermarket quality food and are more interested than ever in where their meals are coming and how they’re being prepared.” — Steven Torres, co-founder, co-owner and director of operations of Pop Pie Co. and Stella Jean’s, University Heights
“Pottery and stoneware, rustic-refined and fermented everything!” — Chris Gentile, chef de cuisine at Avant, Rancho Bernardo
Trends you hope end with 2019
“I would like to see the trend of third-party delivery apps end. I would like to see consumers dining out more at the establishment as a rebuttal to the unfair pricing structure of app delivery and the subpar product that arrives an hour after the food was produced.” — Drew Bent, chef at Lola 55
“I hope people without celiac disease stop hating on gluten. People need to be educated about healthy breads and eat more of them! The gluten-free trend breaks my little baker heart. I also hope people stop putting bacon in desserts.” — Bird
“Natural wines that smell like poop. Also, dining at home.” — Mosblech
“Tech companies taking advantage of restaurants through delivery apps that have little-to-no government regulation due to the sudden demand of convenience over quality of service.” — Torres
“Chefs fermenting items that don’t necessarily enhance their flavor, basically overuse of the technique.” — Gentile
“I hope the celebrity tequila trend ends. I’d prefer to recognize and give thanks to the hard-working jimadores (agave harvesters), as they are the ones who make such great efforts and allow us all to enjoy great tequila.” — Maurice DiMarino, wine and beverage director for Cohn Restaurant Group
“Everything being labeled ‘craft’ and ‘farm to table’ when it’s not actually craft or farm to table. Also, can we lose the ampersand in names?” — King
“(Nothing) really. I find everything entertaining. Cheap beer is awesome. Go ahead. Put it in a cocktail. White Claw is good, too. Sue me. Pumpkin Spice is delicious. Whatever. CBD is good for you. Use it.” — Leigh Lacap, beverage director at Campfire and Jeune et Jolie
“Pot restaurants and the focus on allergies.” — Scott
“The wasteful approach to cooking and operations— from plastic-based disposables to surplus ingredients that go to waste. More culinary professionals must realize sustainability is a responsibility that restaurants can no longer avoid.” — Angius
“Deconstructed food. Bring back the classics. It was done the right way the first time.” — Adler
“Egg porn. And food game shows! Everyone has their food show, food blog, food group! I’m all of those. And last but not least — throw away the damn Tweezers and focus on flavors!” — Malarkey
Trend predictions for the next decade/2020
“Transparency in food, in terms of sourcing and ethics. Also, an increase in faster, more casual options.” — Mosblech
“No waste, kids menus, organic availability to the masses, turmeric root, tahini, ethnic cuisine, vegetable based menus, and alternative sweeteners.” — Scott
“The obvious prediction is that there will be less full-service restaurants and more automation. But I am hopeful and optimistic that there will always be a demand for hospitality in restaurants. I think what we will see is operators working towards figuring out how to provide service and hospitality as efficiently as possible, to be able to contend with the economic realities facing us today, which are surely to get only more challenging in the next decade.” — Reznick
“I think we will see a return to refined plating, white china. I will probably be the hundredth chef to say this, but it’s all about the vegetable game! As the world slowly realizes the benefits of a vegetable rich diet, we will see a huge surge in the amount of vegetarian selections on the menu.” — Gentile
“Healthy food and veganism are great trends/styles of cooking and baking that I hope will continue to spread. I cross my fingers that good artisan bread is more accessible and more bakers pop up. I fear pastry chefs are a dying breed, and hope restaurants will put more effort into pastry programs moving forward. I hope current pastry chefs continue to push themselves to learn even more about the trade. There is endless knowledge and technique to pastry. In a perfect world, San Diego would have patisseries, boulangeries, panaderias (and) bakeries on every corner like those of Paris, Mexico City or Copenhagen. There’s no reason we can’t have a better food scene.” — Bird
“Consumers are going to want a return to a slower, more personal dining experience. Restaurants are going to have to figure out that perfect balance of providing top-quality service while also keeping up with the ever-growing demand to churn out items quickly and efficiently.” — Torres
"Death of the old chains. TGIF / Denny’s / Old School Burger Joints will all be replaced with new socially responsible millennial playgrounds, with even more apps to get your food delivered continuing the trend of less communication with real people.” — Malarkey
“In the coming decade, there will be an increase in the use of automation to reduce labor cost. Additionally, better, more equitable partnerships between third-party delivery companies will be required if they are to survive. The consumer will have to pay a higher price for goods purchased plus pay for the convenience of having them delivered to their door. The current model is not sustainable.” — Vizcarra
“Food will once again take center stage in the overall dining experience. Simplicity, authenticity and tradition will be brought to the table in style.” — Angius
“The return of hospitality and having an actual experience at a restaurant. Delivery and fast casual have their place but as dining gets more expensive, we need to make it worth your while and make it a full experience.” — Adler
“I think a trend for the next decade will be more disclosure on labels. People want to know what they’re drinking, which has led to the natural wine movement. With forward-thinking companies doing it voluntarily, I think this will lead to consumers asking for more regulations.”— DiMarino
“CBD is huge now and ultimately THC in food products will continue to grow with education and demand. Cannabis dinners and food experiences will be a big thing!” — King
“Well, being in California, minimum wage will take its toll on the way drinks are formulated. As the cost of labor rises, bar and restaurant owners will have to minimize the time it takes preparing drinks on the back end. Operations as a whole will need to find ways to save more money while making more. This will have a direct influence on what kind of ingredients make their way into drinks and how they are executed. I’m fighting it, but I see this going more than 12 rounds.” — Lacap
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