Food trends 2012: Natural & subtle

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cooking

42°Raw’s Lasagna  is prepared at under 42° to keep all of the dish's nutrients intact
42°Raw’s Lasagna is prepared at under 42° to keep all of the dish's nutrients intact
The ‘Rene Redzepi factor’ is set to take the UK by storm, with an increasing number of chefs and restaurants taking a more natural approach to food, using less meat products and incorporating raw ingredients into dishes. 

If there was ever a single restaurant that had a global presence large enough to influence the food trends of another country, it would be Noma. The Copenhagen restaurant is praised for its ability to consistently reinvent and redefine flavours and dishes.

“Our menu’s based around vegetables and plants,” Redzepi told BigHospitality shortly after collecting Noma’s third World’s Best Restaurant accolade.​ “There’s a bit of fish in there, but even less meat. We try to just cook all of these things in a way that each mouthful signifies a region.”

So, in a month that sees Redzepi bringing his Noma vision to the UK with a pop-up restaurant at London hotel Claridges,​it’s no surprise that many chefs and restaurateurs here are already following suit.

Take 42°Raw for example. The healthy, raw food café concept opened earlier this year in London’s Mayfair.​It’s interior offers a pared-down Scandinavian approach to design, with high, black-painted ceilings, pale wooden furniture and blackboard menus, while the menu is based around plant-based dishes, all cooked under 42° to keep all the nutrients intact.

“None of the food prepared at 42°Raw is cooked above 42°, to ensure that no nutrients are lost during the cooking process,” explains Ian Palmer, managing director of Kofler & Kompanie, which operates the concept.

Grow your own

“We are changing people’s perceptions that plant-based food is dull and not tasty and we have worked with Michelin-starred chefs to create plant-based dishes that are accessible for all.”

And just last week, we reported that Bruno Loubet and his business partners Mark Sainsbury and Michael Benyan have confirmed plans to open a second restaurant in London,​showcasing Loubet’s 'passion' for vegetables by making them a major focus rather than simply the garnish.

"Increasingly, I’m seeing people growing their own and chefs being more adventurous with new and old varieties,” Loubet said. “I’ve always had a passion for vegetables, and love tending my own little garden at home. While we will not be a ‘vegetarian’ restaurant, there is so much cooking scope with vegetables that I am looking forward to exploring at Granary Square."

So, why the sudden resurgence of vegetables and other ‘natural’ food in the UK? Is it just a reaction to modernist cuisine? Perhaps there’s an air of social responsibility from restaurants to place more focus on healthy eating, or are they simply being driven away from high-protein products as costs continue to mount? Well it’s actually combination of all three.

So says Charles Banks, director of food trends agency Thefoodpeople. “It’s in part a reaction to modernist cuisine,” he says. “The days of taking a load of strawberries, concentrating them down and creating one strawberry which is super-intense are gone.

“However, I think there are other factors at play. Meat and fish prices continue to go up and so, when you take into consideration global economics, I think we’re going to see more fruit and veg over the next 10 years than we do at the moment, because some of those key proteins are going to become scarce.

“There’s definitely also the healthy element; a social responsibility aspect from the restaurateur as well. For consumers, it feels much more ‘of the moment’ and in-tune with what’s happening at a macro-level.”

Natural meets modern

This isn’t to say that this is a new phenomenon. In fact there are many chefs – the likes of Great British Menu star Simon Rogan​– who have been cooking with the mantra of ‘less is more’ for some time.

But it’s chefs like Rogan that are taking this ‘natural’ food concept to the next level. And that’s where Banks believes the future of British cuisine lies.

“With the more natural-based food concepts, chefs can make it appear as if they have intervened in each dish a lot less, when in fact they have put a lot of work into sourcing the right ingredients, bringing together the right flavours, and using raw food or floral products to create naturally occurring textures.”

“I’ve spoken to a lot of ex-modernist chefs that have decided to adopt another cuisine and then begin incorporating their modernist techniques into more traditional dishes.

“So I think what we’re probably going to see is this evolving into ‘naturalness in a modern and contemporary context’, and I expect we’ll see a bit of a fusion of the two concepts over time.”

This mixture of cooking concepts can again be related to the Redzepi factor. The Dane’s rendition of natural Nordic gourmet cuisine offers more than simple, natural dishes, with a gastronomic take on traditional cooking methods and the use of fine Nordic produce.

As to whether there are any restaurants in the UK that have the level of innovation required to achieve such dishes, watch this space.

10 things we can expect to see in the UK:

  • Less cooking
  • Less heat and lower temperatures
  • More vegetables on plates
  • Inspirations from nature
  • Foraging/wild harvest
  • An increase in modern vegetarian restaurants
  • A regress of molecular cooking styles
  • Chefs & restaurateurs owning farms and growing their own ingredients
  • More use of local foods
  • Calories displayed on menus

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1 comment

Naturalistic fallacy

Posted by Alex Murdoch,

Another expression of the naturalistic fallacy. While I can see the appeal of what appears to be fresher food, what isn't presented accurately is the risk. What precautions are taken in the kitchen to ensure that the product is safe? I can see a move to HACCP inspections in this type of establishment.

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