Novelty value ... A hot dog from El Loco in Surry Hills. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Shopping at the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, wagyu beef burritos and share plates – these are some of the elements that will come together in the food bowl of Australia next year, according to a report on food trends released this week.
A survey of more than 1000 consumers and taste-makers around the country commissioned by public relations agency Weber Shandwick, found that artisan supermarkets, nostalgic menus and an "international flavour duopoly" between South America and Asia are among the trends set to turn up the heat in Australian kitchens in 2013.
There is now a generation of people who didn't necessarily grow up eating at the table every evening. They are comfortable with a kimchi pork burger from a food truck one night, to sitting up at the bar having a snack and a glass of wine the next.
Viva Mexico and the Chinese revolution
It could be tacos topped with kimchi or wagyu beef burritos on menus next year, with South American and Asian flavours tipped to boom. "Korean, wagyu and Peruvian restaurants; spicy food from northern China; and kimchi – a fermented Korean dish made of vegetables" are among the flavours set to captivate the nation, the report, predicts.
Korean influence ... Neil Perry's stir-fried pork with kimchi. Photo: WILLIAM MEPPEM
Mexican food, the perennial polariser, is expected to become "an essential part in any Aussie kitchen", a trend seemingly confirmed by the Mexican wave that's engulfing Sydney and Melbourne.
The spate of rival restaurants opening on his turf has not escaped the attention of the chef and restauranteur Elvis Abrahanowicz. The co-owner and chef behind the Spanish tapas bar Bodega and the Argentinian restaurant Porteno in Sydney says Latin American cuisine is an obvious choice for Australia.
"Our climates are very similar, which means the available produce is also very similar," he says.
Children's food for adults ... Mac 'n' cheese with truffle from Panama House in Bondi. Photo: Fiona Morris
Expectations are higher because people are travelling more, he says. "But in terms of the South American food offered in Australia, the only commercial examples we've had . . . have been in a very traditional style. Now we're seeing Latin American menus done on a much larger scale and with more sophistication."
Return to artisan shopping
Consumers want personalised shopping experiences and even supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles are introducing bakeries, butcheries, sushi-chefs and pizzerias into stores, the report notes.
The gourmet food importer Simon Johnson points to the craze surrounding the high-end Italian food emporium Eataly in Europe and New York, which has individual retailers selling everything from breads and pastries to fresh fish, cured meats and handmade cheeses and pastas.
Consumers can't seem to get enough, Johnson says. "It's all about quality and . . . getting people off the bottom shelf of the supermarket and onto artisan producers."
He says the resurgence of artisanal shopping is largely driven by a return to the kitchen. "People are realising that cooking is enjoyable and everyone can be part of the experience. It pulls the family together."
Food trucks, children's food for grown-ups and the "casualisation" of menus are the restaurant trends for 2013, with "entrees and mains a thing of the past", the report says.
Restaurant critic Terry Durack says the growth in popularity of share plates, tapas and meze-sized servings is speeding up the death of the "entree-mains-dessert" style of dining.
"We just don't need to eat that much any more and we don't have the time or the money for a three-course meal. It's more accessible and flexible to cover the table with small share plates and everyone has what they want, pays less, and leaves earlier."
But it's not just food on the run for the cheap and the young, Durack says. Flexible dining is also more fun.
"There is now a generation of people who didn't necessarily grow up eating at the table every evening. They are comfortable with...a kimchi pork burger from a food truck one night, to sitting up at the bar having a snack and a glass of wine the next."
As for children's food for grown-ups, that's just taking young, fun dining one step further. Besides, asks Durack, when did that ever go out of fashion?
"British restaurant critic Jan Moir once wrote a fictionalised review of a fashionable new restaurant called Baby, which served up food in baby jars, had nursery style lighting and attracted a roll-call of celebrities including Posh and Becks. Yes, it did appear on April Fool's Day, but that didn't stop hundreds of people from calling the number listed and trying to make a booking," Durack says.
His point is simple: "The appeal of ice-cream and jelly, party pies and sausage rolls is universal, not to mention being too good to waste on kids."
Back to basics
Sadly for the bratty kid in all of us, it won't all be mac 'n' cheese and chicken nuggets next year. Australians will breathe new life into staple ingredients, with vegetables becoming "the centrepiece of Aussie meals", Weber Shandwick predicts.
"Rising meat costs are contributing to vegetables taking centre stage, and more families are growing their own food and helping out in community and school vegetable gardens," food writer and Epicure columnist Jill Dupleix says.
She echoes the report in drawing attention to a genuine interest in native foods like the Kakadu plum and warrigal greens. "It's time we stopped living on imported ideas and techniques and claimed our own unique food as our own. How chefs as diverse as Kylie Kwong in Sydney and Ben Shewry in Melbourne use native ingredients is brilliant – it's the future of Australian food."
But while most of these trends have tongues wagging, mouths salivating and foodies panting in feverish excitement, there's one prediction that cuts a swathe through leading taste-makers: "novel foods from nature . . . will be gracing our plates; and we may even see a rise of edible insects like grasshoppers and locusts", the report says.
Locusts. Really? "I've got to admit, you lost me there," Johnson says.
Perhaps we should go back to talking about ice-cream cake.
What do you think the dining and cooking trends of 2013 will be? Tell us in the comments below.