Forbes – Top 10 Food and Restaurant Trends of 2016

It’s that time of year ~ the food industry is talking about new tastes & trends.
At Culinary Concierge, we give you a better understanding of the marketplace & the trends in the food world ~ in order for you to develop & sustain a competitive edge.
As a leading Global Culinary Trendologist, Christine Couvelier goes beyond borders & gets up close and personal with the food industry.
Let’s talk about your vision of success & how we can help!
Here is an article from Forbes Magazine of the most recent trends.

It’s sweaty, spicy, saucy – and totally gratifying – work to whip up the annual Seat 1A list of food and restaurant trends, and 2016 was no exception.

It started with some 35 potential top trends based on observations from restaurants all over the U.S., which were evaluated by an esteemed panel of culinary experts to get to the final 10:

  • Linda Burum is a freelance food writer and a contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine and other publications for decades, and author of the landmark book A Guide to Ethnic Food in Los Angeles. She’s a frequent judge for the James Beard Foundation awards.
  • Christine Couvelier is a global culinary trendologist, executive chef and culinary executive. Through her consulting company, Culinary Concierge, based in Victoria, British Columbia, she assists clients in launching food products and menu items.
  • Robin Selden is the current president of the International Caterers Association and was named their Chef of the Year in March. She is Managing Partner & Executive Chef of Connecticut- and New York-based Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning, whose clients include companies, celebrities, and dignitaries. (Full disclosure: Robin and I are cousins.)
  • Mike Thelin is a food and hospitality expert and advisor to many leading brands and organizations. He is co-founder of Feast Portland, one of America’s top culinary festivals.
  • Bret Thorn is senior food & beverage editor of Nation’s Restaurant News with responsibility for spotting and reporting on food and beverage trends across the country. He has also studied traditional French cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Some of the trends on past lists remain popular: all-day breakfast, poke, fried chicken, avocado toast, lobster rolls, truffles, kale, Brussels sprouts, bitters, copper mug cocktails, customizable fast food, upscale vegan cooking and restaurants filtering and bottling water on site. Click for previous lists from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

And see the end of this story for some ideas on the horizon that may end up on future lists.

1 – Asian Twists on Comfort Food
Even five years ago, Korean kimchi and gochujang, Japanese dashi stock and Sriracha hot sauce were seen as exotic in the U.S. mainstream, but now they’re everywhere. “Bottles of Sriracha are becoming as ubiquitous to diner condiments as ketchup and Tabasco sauce,” says Mike Thelin (Linda Burum notes that they’re even in Mexican fast food restaurants, where presumably there are other hot sauces), “and ‘kimchi mayo’ doesn’t require an explanation.”
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Part of this, Thelin says, is that “fermented foods and chili sauces add depth and complexity that marry incredibly well with classic comfort dishes.”

Case in point: Robin Selden calls her small plate of chicken and waffles with kimchi slaw and Sriracha maple syrup “one of the best things we make.”

Bret Thorn calls this trend “a popular way to put a new twist on classics” that “grounds consumers in something that seems safe, and thus gives them the freedom to be more adventuresome.”

2 – Better Butters
Compound butters like these with oregano and garlic are moving front and center. Image: Shutterstock

This category is actually sort of a double header, between restaurants culturing their own butters in house and compound butters, with other ingredients mixed in. “A good local or European butter softened to room temperature and a fistful of herbs is all it takes” for a compound butter, says Mike Thelin. Truffle butter is a classic, he says, but compound butters can be “the bases for loads of possibilities and experimentations.”

Some of Robin Selden’s favorite compound butters are wildly diverse: nori, toasted sesame and ginger; lemon, tarragon and popped capers; madeira and shiitake; even double chocolate and hazelnut. “Taking butter to another level is an easy special touch,” she says, “particularly when served with a great bread.”

3 – Coconut everything
Coconut milk finds its way into everything, including this chia pudding topped with berries. Image: Shutterstock

Coconut is “riding the superfood bandwagon and also the anti-dairy one,” says Bret Thorn.

“Lots of versatility,” says Christine Couvelier. “We are seeing it not only as coconut water and beverages, but look for innovation with chips, crackers, spreads, oils, vinegars,” not to mention coconut flour and coconut coffee creamer.

Robin Selden uses coconut milk in panna cotta and gluten-free, vegan coconut truffles, and coconut water in fruit popsicles. That said, she finds “people either love this versatile fruit or hate it. It’s much like cilantro in the catering world.”

4 – Cook-it-Yourself Meal Kits
“The cook-it-yourself meal kit movement is America’s food revolution coming full circle and landing back in the kitchen,” says Mike Thelin. Outfits like Blue Apron, Purple Carrot (which specializes in vegan cooking), Peach Dish (Southern cooking) and other regional services ship pre-measured ingredients with recipes to consumers, who can cook at home.

The rest of our panel is not so sure, with comments like “a fad rather than a trend” (Christine Couvelier), “the field may be overcrowded” (Linda Burum) and “not sure how long they’ll last” (Bret Thorn).

“I do feel that meal kits may have been helpful in teaching consumers portion size, preparing in advance for meals and even introducing them to new recipes and flavors,” Couvelier says, but she also says that about “90% of customers drop the service in the first 6 months.” She also wonders about all the packaging waste they generate.

Still, Thelin predicts that “This is a trend that will continue as more chefs are planning to launch similar services around the country.”

5 – Dukkah
Don’t know dukkah? Our experts bet you will. Linda Burum calls it “the Egyptian blend of toasted seeds, nuts, and spices that adds crunch and pizzazz to just about everything” and notes that “it’s now everywhere from a zillion cooking blogs to food-oriented magazines.” Ingredients vary from chef to chef and coast to coast. Burum cites, among others, James Beard award-winning chef Ana Sortun of Oleana in Cambridge, Mass., who uses it over Moroccan carrot salad and a dukkah crunch doughnut. Chef Alon Shaya of Shaya in New Orleans “splashes it onto okra,” while pastry chef Alison Cates of Honey’s in Chicago “turns out a curry-infused sponge cake under Turkish-coffee mousse and dukkah-spiced toffee shards.”

“I was hoping to keep this as our secret ingredient as I love when our clients question what it is,” says Robin Selden. “Guess the word is out.”

6 – Farm-raised Fish
Surprised to see this one on the list? So was I, given that “There’s still a strong anti-farming bias among some chefs and consumers,” as Bret Thorn says. “But as they become more educated, they’re coming to understand that this is a complex issue. Aquaculture is being done more responsibly, and eating wild fish from badly managed fisheries can drive them to extinction.”

The devil appears to be in the details. “Available information still seems inconclusive,” says Linda Burum. “The health and safety of the fish depends on how and where they were raised.”

Mike Thelin agrees that “Farm-raised fish can indeed be sustainable and of high-quality, but like anything, it all comes down to the details, the product and the producer.”

7 – Filipino Cuisine & Flavors
“A biggie for 2016,” says Linda Burum, who gives much of the credit to Top Chef competitor Dale Talde (whose Talde gastropubs are in Brooklyn, Jersey City and Miami) and his cookbook, Asian-American, for having “spread the Filipino-American gospel.” She notes that Bon Appetit named the D.C. Filipino restaurant Bad Saint as America’s second-best new restaurant in 2016.

Mike Thelin says Filipino cuisine “celebrates massive flavors and funky combinations—but with approachability, generosity and downright love.” Like the Philippines itself, Filipino cooking has absorbed diverse influences from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Japan, Spain and even the U.S., with dishes spanning simple pork filled buns and lumpia (spring rolls) to adobo (braised pork or chicken), pancit (stir-fried noodles), roasted and stewed pork, flavors generally heavy on the vinegar and coconut, and desserts like halo-halo, a flexible mix of that might include sweet beans, coconut, sticky rice, purple yam, shaved ice and sweet sauces.

8 – Miso
“I will never tire of using miso in my cooking!” proclaims Robin Selden. “The flavor profiles that you can create from this complex paste are unlike anything else.” Although the fermented soybean paste is most closely associated with Japanese cooking, its versatility puts it in its own category from the other Asian influences above.

Mike Thelin calls miso the “Swiss army knife of the pantry—it can do anything,” adding umami, depth and complexity way beyond miso soup in sushi bars: marinades, salad dressings, bar snacks (Selden makes crispy miso chick peas and almonds), even donuts and ice cream like Selden’s white miso, ginger and lychee flavor.

9 – Nut Cheeses
“The eye-rolling can stop now,” says Mike Thelin. As diners look for more dairy-free and vegan options, cheeses made from nuts “have taken a massive leap.”

Thelin, Bret Thorn and Linda Burum all credit maker Kite Hill (by Chef Tal Ronnen of L.A.’s Crossroads Kitchen, which appeared on our food trend list in 2013), with starting the movement – Thorn says that Ronnen figured out “how to get nut milk to actually act like real milk and make something that’s really cheese-like, rather than smashed up and shaped into something resembling cheese.”

Thelin calls the new products “good enough for a restaurant cheese plate.” Other brands recommended by our panelists include Treeline, Miyoko’s, Parmela Creamery and Dr. Cow.

10 – Turmeric
“What a great spice to have as a leading taste!” says Christine Couvelier. All of our experts cite turmeric’s health benefits as an anti-inflammatory (“helps with aches & stiff joints, promotes balanced mood, helps with inflammation,” Couvelier says).

Bret Thorn notes that it’s long been a favorite “among the supplement, juice-cleansing crowd” and is “widespread in Southeast Asian cuisines (and Indian, too),” and Couvelier now sees it in everything from bone broths to salad dressings, and it’s showing up on cocktail menus including L.A.’s popular EP & LP restaurant (the Silly Rabbit mixes turmeric in with vodka, carrot juice, almond cereal milk, lemon and cayenne).

Mike Thelin simply calls it “one of those perfect foods.”

Trends on the horizon: There were a lot of honorable mentions on this year’s list.Some of the panelists like the prospects for goat meat; it’s entering more menus from its traditional home in Mexican and Caribbean cuisines, but none of our experts felt it had gone mainstream yet. Same for sherry, which is enjoying growth in some markets and is beginning to break out of Spanish restaurants. Personally, my favorite new food of the year was Thai ice cream rolls (yes, outside of Thailand), but almost nobody else seems to know about them.

One pattern – if not exactly a trend – that seems to follow real estate is restaurants getting priced out of high-rent cities like New York and San Francisco. “Smaller cities around the country win as chefs set up shop in places where lower costs allow them the flexibility to be creative and not be too beholden to investors,” says Mike Thelin.

“Compounding the price challenge,” Bret Thorn says, “there are now interesting food scenes in every major city. Why battle it out in New York or San Francisco when you can thrive in Cleveland or Nashville and have a backyard and affordable parking?”

And one trend that some like and some of our experts don’t: menus for dogs in restaurants for people. I’ve seen it at Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, and Linda Burum has spotted lactose-free ice cream for dogs at Roy’s Artisinal Creamery in Santa Barbara, Calif. Mike Thelin, however, says “I hope this isn’t a trend that lasts.”

Will any of these end up on next year’s list? Y’all come back and find out.

View full article on Forbes:


Culinary Solutions

Culinary Solutions Article | Food Image | Culinary ConciergeCulinary Concierge provides customers with culinary solutions.

I am passionate about food!!

Here are some methods that I use when assisting clients in launching on-trend, on-time great-tasting food products & menu items.

Be Externally Focused

  • look outside your organization
  • who can you partner with that thinks differently from your team
  • know what is happening outside of your office & your kitchen

Culinary Creativity

  • blend together culinary awareness & creativity
  • add a strategic marketing plan
  • toss together with an in-depth trend watch report

Fill Your Product Development Pipeline

  • engage your teams in creative ideation sessions
  • include industry leaders from both inside & outside of the food world
  • plan for successful long term innovation
  • translate culinary trends to match your customer base, your product mix & your future vision

Competitive Analysis

  • be aware of consumer insights towards your brand, your products & your menu items
  • work with an expert to craft an in-depth competitive analysis

Taste, Taste, Taste

  • because great tasting food products & menu items lead to increased social media exposure, worth of mouth advertising, customers, sales & profits
  • taste your way to success

I look forward to working with you on exciting food projects.

Let’s set up a meeting so we can taste some ideas for culinary success.

Taste, Taste, Taste,

Culinary Solutions | Taste Taste Taste | Culinary Concierge


Worth the Flight to Toronto

Rasa — Toronto, Ontario

You often hear of lists of restaurants that are “worth the flight”. Well, this is at the top of my list.

Rasa in Toronto is brought to you by The Food Dudes.  Plan a trip to Toronto now.

Here is a photo journey of the incredible meal that the wonderful Chef John and Chef Davin prepared for me recently.

Welcoming + Creative + Fabulous Cocktails + Incredible Tastes + Great Presentation = Hospitality at it’s finest.

Taste! Taste! Taste!


I Won the Culinary Lottery!

I really won the Culinary Lottery!

Trois Mec in LA | Culinary ConciergeOn a recent trip to Los Angeles, I managed to secure a table at Trois Mec. Trois Mec means “three guys”, which is French slang for three friends.
These are not just any friends; but three of the hottest chefs in LA who are so creative, innovative and imaginative that it’s a little like ending up for dinner in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Your chefs and hosts at Trois Mec are Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo.

Why is it a lottery? Well, they only serve dinner from Monday through Friday and they do not take reservations. Spots are secured via an online ticketing system that you log onto two weeks before you want to be there for dinner. Sit at your computer, type very fast and hope that you get a seat.

Food review of Trois Mec in Los Angeles | Christine Couvelier Culinary ConciergeOh, right there are only 12 seats! Not bad when I counted 22 staff serving, cooking, creating and pouring.

Now, if you expect to pull up and see a sign that says Trois Mec — it’s not there. The sign says Raffalo’s Pizza. They never changed it. So open the door and be greeted by the whole staff turning and yelling out “Bonsoir” (the fun has just begun).

Food review of Trois Mec in LA | Christine Couvelier Don’t look for a menu when you sit down. They don’t have one. There is a different tasting menu each night. Just sit back and let the culinary creativity take over every sip and every bite of the tasting menu and wine pairings. There were 12 courses the night I was there.

Tiny tastes that made up one of the top three meals of my life!

Trois Mec White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes

Trois Mec White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes

There were too many highlights to mention; but, the winner was the smoked and bruleed eel served on a bed of white chocolate mashed potatoes. Yes, you did just read that correctly. It was simply the best taste of the year.

Oh, and that menu you were expecting — it’s presented at the end of your Trois Mec Food Review in Los Angeles | Culinary Conciergemeal. What a great way to ensure you will never forget your meal at Trois Mec. I’ll be planning another trip very soon because I just can’t wait to eat there again!

Taste! Taste! Taste!


So Hot – Eat Here Right Now

Anyone who follows my blog will know that I think Seattle is one of the greatest food cities around.

One of my new finds is MKT, brought to you by the never-ending chef / restaurateur, Ethan Stowell, who continues to share his passion for food in a variety of ways at his endless list of restaurants.

MKT is a tiny new gem full of incredible tastes to share. The dungeness crab salad with tart apple, tarragon, and endive was so refreshing and crisp.  I crave another taste of his winter squash fritters with corriander, herb and pumpkin seed pesto.

The special dish for me was the smoked wild mushrooms with sweet potato gnocchi topped with crispy shallots and thyme.

Trust me! Head to MKT for great hospitality, wonderful service, and tastes to make memories. Visit


A Taste of Sake

Sake Tasting | Culinary Concierge, Vancouver BCWhen the mail arrives, and the invitation reads, “The Consul General of Japan requests the pleasure of your company at A Taste of Sake”, it makes you smile.

I was honoured last week to be invited to the home of Seiji Okada, the Consul General of Japan, in Vancouver BC, for a spectacular sake and food tasting.

Sake Tasting with Seiji Okada Consul General of Japan Vancouver BCSake has enjoyed a special place in Japanese life and culture for hundreds of years. Today, sake is appreciated by people from every corner of the world for it’s unique balance of refreshment and savouriness. In Japan, over 5,000 brands have been newly developed to cater to the growing trend of pairing sake with Japanese-Western fusion cuisine.

Sake Tasting with Seiji Okada, the Consul General of JapanI knew the very select group of guests were in for a treat, when we were welcomed with a glass of sparkling sake as we arrived.

The food served was and exquisite and paired so well with the numerous sakes that were described and tasted.

Christine Couvelier at Sake Tasting with the Consul General of JapanWe learned much about the history of sake making; for instance, that a sake craftsman is called a kurabito.

As we discussed, ‘sake is made from steamed rice, and what does steamed rice go with — everything!”

I encourage you to explore the tastes of new and different sake you may not have tasted before. Try it chilled & enjoy. Kanpai!


Tastes & Trends

Good Food Awards San Francicso | Christine Couvelier | Culinary Concierge

Christine Couvelier at
Good Food Awards, San Francisco

I have just returned from The Fancy Food Show & The Good Food Awards in San Francisco.
A fabulous way to start off the new year!!

These shows are one of the ways the culinary world gets a tastes of the trends that may be showing up in gourmet stores, on grocery store shelves, or on restaurant menus near you.

Good Food Awards, San Francisco | Rick’s Picks

Good Food Awards, San Francisco
Rick’s Picks








As I travel to food shows around the world, I taste the new products being offered by both large food manufacturers as well as artisanal food producers. I spend time touring green markets, tasting with chefs and keeping my taste buds tuned for the next big taste and  trend that will come along in the food world.

My clients certainly benefit from this, as I am able to assist them launching on-time, on-trend and great tasting products in their product line-up or on their menus.

Fancy Food Show, San Francisco | Jelly Belly

Fancy Food Show, San Francisco
Jelly Belly

My Trend Watch Report provides an in-depth look at the trends which are emerging, developing & existing for the next 1 – 5 years.

If this sounds like something you have been searching for to launch your next award-winning product, call me at +1-250.589.5845.

Fancy Food Show, San Francisco | Chef’s Cut

Fancy Food Show, San Francisco
Chef’s Cut

Many of my clients ask me to take them to where the trends are happening and to provide a taste tour of new retailers, restaurants, green markets & chef’s kitchens. These In-Store & At-Market Tours are the turning point in planning for new products or menu items. They provide you with access to trend setters, tastes behind the kitchen doors, and a look at the future of the food industry.

Do you want to put yourself ahead of your competition ? Call me. I would look forward to planning a tour just for you and your team.

Fancy Food Show | San Francisco | Cup 4 Cup

Fancy Food Show, San Francisco
Cup 4 Cup

Be sure to check back for a look into my Culinary Crystal Ball.

Taste, Taste, Taste.


Delicious in Miami

Chef Dena Marino with Christine Couvelier | Culinary Concierge

Christine with Chef Dena Marino

Do you have travel plans that might take you close to Miami Florida?

Well, if you do, be sure to head over to Miami’s Design District — you don’t want to miss eating at MC Kitchen. MC Kitchen is the culinary playground of Chef Dena Marino.

Chef Dena Marino | Miami Florida | Culinary Concierge

Bucatini alla Carbonara

The sleek dining room greets you, filled with tantalizing aromas from the open kitchen.

Christine Couvelier in Miami at MC Kitchen

Rustichella d’Abbruzzo Paccheri

The menu is Chef Marino’s take on modern Italian cuisine — it’s fabulous !! Her passion for food shines through in the fresh house-made pastas, local fish, and locally sourced produce and herbs.

The Bucatini alla Carbonara was better than any carbonara that I have ever eaten in Italy!!

Can’t wait for my next visit to MC Kitchen. Visit MC Kitchen at to find out more.



What is a Saunier?

Vancouver Salt Company Food Market | Culinary Concierge

Vancouver Island Salt Company

Recently I went to visit The Vancouver Island Salt Company.

Owner Andrew Shepherd was pleased I had asked to come and see his operation up island from Victoria. I have been using the fabulous salts from The Vancouver Island Salt Company for quite a while.

When I arrived, I was greeted by Canada’s #1 Saunier, Bryan Krueger.

Bryan Krueger Canada's No 1 Saunier

Bryan Krueger Canada’s No 1 Saunier

He gave me a tour and shared his passion for harvesting salt from the sea.

This company is very innovative with the flavours that they infuse with the sea salt; fabulous flavours like roasted garlic, balsamic, blue cheese, Spanish paprika and more.

The Canadian Fleur de Sel was in production the day I was there.

What is a saunier | Culinary Concierge

Love the Canadiana of the Hockey Stick!

Hand-harvested crystals bloom on top of the water just as the salt begins to form.

I keep a number of the packages of salt on my kitchen counter ready to sprinkle on potatoes out of the oven, mix with herbs & coat a salmon dish or make a crust with grainy mustard & panko for a beef tenderloin. I love them all!

If you can’t get to Vancouver Island, be sure to order from their online store at


Taste & Inspiration from Great Food Blogs

Great Food Blogs | Culinary Concierge

My crazy, hectic, busy & fun life is full of food inspirations.

As a world-class, award-winning food product developer & renowned culinary trendologist, much of my time is spent looking for, reading about, cooking & tasting great food.

Many people ask me where I look for inspiration, what food magazines I read, what cookbooks I like to have on hand; but lately, a lot of people have been asking me about what food blogs I like to read.

There certainly are hundreds & hundreds of food blogs to tempt you with fabulous photos, but you know I am all about, Taste, Taste, Taste!!!

So, although many blogs may look great, I like to make sure that the recipes have been tested and that they taste great. I find that I have a list of about 10 blogs, that I check every day or two, to see what they are talking about, to try out a recipe, or to pass along a story on my twitter page.

I would love to know of any food blogs that you like to read — it’s all about sharing great food tastes!!

Here’s my top 10 list (for now .. )

Don’t forget. Send me some of the blogs that inspire you and I will be sure to share them with my readers.

Taste, Taste, Taste