Because everyone is trying to do farm-to-table cuisine, there is much less variety when dining out.
For our recent report on food trends, “What’s Cooking?,” we received email input from several experts and influencers, among them chef Elise Kornack. (For the others, see the report’s appendix.) A winner on the Food Network show Chopped, Kornack and her partner are combining the ideals of eating seasonally and locally with principals of practicing yoga in a venture called Take Root. She also hosts private dinners through SideTour, “a marketplace for authentic experiences.”
What’s the most exciting thing happening in your corner of the food realm right now?
Small, intimate dining experiences—like our Brooklyn Rooted—where the chef is able to speak to the diners. It seems that conversation between the guests regarding growing, making and eating food is happening naturally, and as a result the diners are able to understand how a chef transforms inspiration, processes ingredients and composes menus.
What do you think has changed significantly in the past few years?
Because everyone is trying to do farm-to-table cuisine, there is much less variety when dining out, and thus chefs are seemingly a bit complacent in their efforts to create new flavor profiles. The menus are a bit stagnant, little imagination or precision, the attitude of, “It’s winter, so we will get through the next few months by roasting every root vegetable at the market.” Every restaurant has a version of roasted beets—roots are not the only available produce in January; similarly, pork is certainly not the only protein.
January’s harvest is actually rather abundant with interesting ingredients, like turmeric root, sunchokes and black radish. Not to mention, simply serving vegetables raw makes them taste as fresh as they do in July.
What are some of the key factors that have been driving these shifts?
For myself, some of the factors driving these new developments would be environmental awareness, interest in health, wellness and nostalgia for childhood/simpler times. I constantly find myself making choices that will protect my planet, my body, my mind and fill my heart with memories of cooking with my family.
Any other trends you’ve been noting?
I have noted a shift in where people acquire recipes and suggestions on where to dine. There is nothing more satisfying to me than opening up a cookbook and paging through, sometimes looking at pictures but always being inspired by where I bought the book or who gave it to me. Now, apps and programs have taken the place of recipe bookkeeping and exchanging ideas by word of mouth—losing the intimacy in cooking and inspiration from our families or regional, seasonal produce.
What are a few things you see bubbling up?
I anticipate a shift towards lifestyle cuisine: developing eating habits that are not radically nutritious but more environmentally and socially conscious. I hope to see more chefs creating menus that are in tune with not only seasonal produce but also our body’s response to variables like temperature, moisture, time of day and our relationships, similar to the Ayurvedic principle of doshas (a dosha: one of three bodily humors that make up one’s constitution, according to Ayurveda)—transforming typical boring vegetarian cuisine so that it’s preferred for both taste and physiological benefits.