2012's end is near, and with a New Year come new and exciting changes in the food world. Indeed, we've already seen a glimpse of what's to come in 2013 with restaurants like Sway and East Side King, but that's just the beginning of all the up-and-coming trends and developments materializing in the Austin culinary scene.
For a while now, we've seen a rise in things like gluten-free menus, Asian-inspired dishes and snout-to-tail preparation, but what exactly awaits us just beyond the horizon?
We reached out to a handful of Austin chefs and restaurateurs and asked the following: What are you ready to leave behind in 2012, and what's to come in 2013? Are things like Brussels sprouts, foie gras, and no reservations finally ready to take a backseat?
Jesse Herman of La Condesa and Sway
I was never into foie gras, and people send it out to me at restaurants all the time. I hope that stops. As much as I love Brussels sprouts, I am starting to get sprouts fatigue, too. Also, [I'm tired of] the overuse of fish sauce in non-Thai and Vietnamese food. The biggest thing I think I am over is the notion of 'nose-to-tail' cooking and "gastropubs" that are not actually gastropubs.
These movements both hit New York City in the mid-2000s with places like The Spotted Pig emulating Fergus Henderson of London's St. John. However, the Spotted Pig, as amazing as it is, was never really nose-to-tail (i.e., they were not butchering and utilizing the whole animal), but is a shining example of a gastropub.
Many other restaurants that claim to practice nose-to-tail suffer from the same problem of not actually practicing what they preach, so I am over hearing about those restaurants and places that call themselves gastropubs that are not either a) in London, or b) The Spotted Pig.
In 2013, I'm looking forward to moving away from heavy gastropub fare and offal and looking West towards California and eating more vegetables and finding lots of vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic items on menus.
At Sway, you'll see lots of vegetarian foods and many items that are vegan- and macrobiotic-friendly. I'm also looking forward to some of Austin's all-star chefs opening new high-profile restaurants, such as Paul Qui's Qui and Bryce Gilmore's Odd Duck.
Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko
Quite a few ingredients we started using at Uchiko when we first opened, including Brussels sprouts, kale and beef tongue, have become very popular at all kinds of restaurants. I'm tired of the "farm-to-table" mantra, oysters on every single menu, artisanal sandwiches, and people waiting in hour-long lines for burgers and brisket. America truly is a place of carnivores.
I'm personally looking forward to the upcoming year and working on new dishes and a brand new concept in Austin. I can't wait for Qui and Sway. I think you'll soon see more restaurants of the fast, casual genre upgrading their menus and offering new and better ways of service and execution by utilizing new technology in the front of house and back of house.
Apple stores have raised the bar in terms of service, and soon all quick-serve restaurants will follow suit.
Paul Qui of East Side King
I think it's hilarious that the Brussels sprouts thing became a trend. We've been doing crispy sprouts at Uchi since late 2005 and early 2006, and it made an appearance again in 2009 at East Side King Liberty. How can anyone ever be over foie gras? I guess we won't miss it until it's taken away from us.
For me, food is an evolutionary process, and I believe in anything delicious. If something becomes a trend it's because it's delicious, and what's wrong with delicious food? I don't think I ever create anything that I'm completely over; it always gets filed for examination later. Like I said earlier, it's about evolution and making things better. My brain always picks on why something doesn't work and what I can do to make it delicious.
I can't wait to try out all sorts of ideas I've collected over this year. I've been honored to meet and eat at [a lot of] chefs' restaurants this past year, and my brain is full of things I want to try out this coming year.
(Qui even listed some of the chefs that inspired him this past year: Ferran Adrià, José Andrés, Massimo Bottura, Sean Brock, René Rexhepi, Pierre Gagnaire, Seiji Yamamoto, Joel Robuchon, Joshua Skenes, Michael Cimarusti, Jiro Ono, Daniel Bowien, Matt Lightner, Juan Mari Arzak, Andoni Aduriz, Grant Achatz, Heston Blumenthal, Blaine Wetzel, Andy Richter, Christian Puglisi, and Fergus Henderson)
Mason Evans of Lucky Robot
2012 certainly spawned some trends that I won't miss. Molecular cooking, for instance. Cooking is art, not science. I prefer to keep it more visceral and less in the lab. Part of great cooking is keeping the magic (or science) behind the curtain. I also won't miss the whole "kid food for grown-ups" trend that hit for a minute.
For 2013, I'm excited to tap into savory street/comfort food like yaki imo (roasted sweet potatoes) with orange oolong tea. On the sushi side, it's all about going light for 2013. Choosing to highlight the flavor of the fish using infused oils and such, instead of burying it under layers of mayo.
Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside and olive & june
I think we might be saying goodbye to the pig for a while. We've seen a wave of pork belly and bacon-centric everything, and I don't think that trend will stick in the New Year.
I'm looking forward to Austin continuing to embrace the emergence of ethnic foods in 2013. In the past couple years, restaurants like Kome and Ramen Tatsu-ya have opened and introduced the city to new flavors. I think 2013 will bring a continued opportunity to use authentic ingredients from different cultures on restaurant menus.