Have you noticed how food has become the new fashion? Like its sartorial cousin food is something that we must all have and what you choose to eat ‘right now’ would seem to say so much about who you are. Are you more likely to say “Freekah, that’s so last year darling” or “French mustard, I’m not touching that fancy muck”? Do you consider yourself a food fashionista or the catering equivalent of a pair of 70’s platform shoes?
The world is drenched in cooking and it’s nearly impossible to turn on the T.V , open a magazine or even listen to the radio without encountering food. Because of this saturation there is a constant search for the next big thing, the new ‘must have’ that is going to revolutionize our lives or make us so healthy that immortality must surely beckon. It’s amazing how a previously unheard of ingredient will suddenly take off and everyone has a grandmother, aunt or mentor with an old family recipe. You know what I mean. “Ah yes, zing-zong beans from Titan. I remember as a child my grandmother had this amazing dish called Saturn Sunrise.” Whatever!
Food fashion has blurred traditional lines and gone are the days when you could identify food from its country of origin. I believe that the public’s thirst for something new has enabled clever and creative chefs to borrow methods and ingredients from other cultures to a point where nearly all menus have an element of fusion or crossover in them.
Coupled with that is the acceptance that people choose certain diets as a life choice rather than as a health issue. 10 years ago vegan and gluten free dishes were regarded with something between scorn and suspicion, but now they are just part of the main stream and offer even more variety to hungry chefs looking to further extend their menus. By the way you should check out vegan meringues made with chick pea juice! I kid you not.
So how does that affect me? As I have said before the catering world has changed since the mid-80’s and customers are now amazingly knowledgeable about food. Where it was once ‘this is what you are having’ it’s now ‘this is what I want’.
99% of the time this is great news for me because customers come to us with a very clear vision and that allows me to give them what they want without poking around in the dark with a stick for a while. The only time I worry is when the first thing that someone says to me is ‘I’m a bit of a foodie’ and combines it with a little head wobble. (I don’t understand the wobble either) Having said that ‘foodies’ I can cope with but when someone tells me they are a food Guru a little piece of me dies inside!!
The infinite variety of food and the speed at which it is moving can mean that the customer might be asking you for something that you have never heard of. A couple of years ago a client requested some food in the style of a small but fabulous group of London restaurants. By luck I had been to one of the restaurants only the week before and was able to really connect with her ideas, but sometimes it’s so new that no one in the kitchen has any clue. Strangely we love it when this happens because it means that we’re just about to learn something new.
Do I like all food fashion? Well actually yes, most of it I do. Fashions come and go and the good stuff sticks around while the not so good fades from memory, but it’s the constant striving for something new that’s keeping us all on our toes, and that can only be a good thing.