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Still trending, or yesterday’s cronut?

imagesConsider the cronut. This croissant-doughnut hybrid burst onto the culinary scene last year when New York patissier Dominique Ansel introduced the confection to lineups of adoring New Yorkers, who quickly made the cronut one of the most desired and copied sweet treats.

By Jane Auster

Much of the hype seemed to disappear, though, when Canadian cronuts, featuring a bacon jam topping, caused food poisoning in more than 200 consumers at the Canadian National Exhibition.

While most trends don’t flame out quite so dramatically, many do seem to jump the shark after a short time on our culinary palates.

I’m no expert at predicting the next big thing or the demise of the last big thing, but these people are: corporate chefs who travel, test, and taste their way through hundreds, if not thousands of foods, spices and new dishes. Here’s what they have to say about what’s hot, what’s not, and what might be hot soon….

Still trending

Food trucks are rumbling to a location near you

“The food truck is still steaming ahead. Not only are more and more cities adjusting bylaws to allow restaurateurs to jump on this bandwagon, I also see an increase of celebrity chefs opening up their own food trucks in addition to their bricks and mortar restaurants. Vikram Vij opened Vij’s Railway Express in Vancouver, Michael Potters’ Localista can be found on the city streets of Toronto and surrounding areas…all with common principles of offering a limited menu of exceptional (local) dishes.

“What I’ve seen so far is celebrity or well-known chefs with a great reputation wanting to expand and open a food truck. And by and large they are successful. Then there are those with food trucks who decide to open a restaurant, and they’ve struggled a bit. Success in the food truck world doesn’t guarantee success as a restaurateur.”

– Juriaan Snellen, Corporate Chef, Heinz Canada

Gluten-free: not just for celiac

“The gluten-free trend is not going anywhere. It demands respect, especially for people with stomach disorders like celiac. There is much more awareness of gluten now, with some chefs creating whole gluten-free menus. And there is a lot of demand on the industry to deliver more gluten-free products.”

– Heinz Lehmann, Corporate Executive Chef North America at Unilever Food Solutions

“As more people recognize their intolerance to gluten, or just want to streamline their diets, we will continue to see innovation around wheat-free creations. Ancient grains and other non-wheat ingredients will continue their march onto supermarket shelves and into restaurants across the country.”

– Brooke Brantley, Culinary Director for North American, McCain’s

Tapas terrific

“If you consider tapas as an umbrella term for ‘shareables,’ I think they are here to stay as they meet a few needs (apart from being delicious): 1) they are a great format for ‘trying’ new flavours without committing to an ‘entrée’ size portion; 2) they fit the trend towards ‘grazing/snacking’ vs. ‘three square meals’; 3) they provide a social experience when they are literally ‘shared’ at the table; and 4) they can even function as a ‘portion control’ option for those interested in health and wellness. Maybe because I have a degree in sociology, I find the social aspect very interesting.  Sharing food, breaking bread together, is a part of human culture. It helps fill a need for connectivity that can be lacking in the day-to-day grind and increasingly wired/digital life many people are leading.

– Kira Smith, Corporate Chef, Kraft Foodservice Canada


“Tapas seem to have transitioned to ‘small plates’ in the public awareness. In fact, I recently saw a restaurant classify their concept as ‘New American Small Plates’. With the increasing popularity of gastropubs, whole animal butchery and farm-to-table restaurants, the idea of sharing as many things as you can with lots of people does, in fact, capture the spirit of tapas.”

– Brooke Brantley, Culinary Director for North American, McCain’s


“Smoking is a cooking technique that’s been around for years, but right now it is a big and growing trend. Sweet and sour complements featuring fermentation, pickling and smoking are growing. I took black tea and mixed it with some brown rice, brown sugar and fresh herbs, lime and thyme, and smoked the whole thing. Smoking is a way for chefs to expand their horizon a little more.”

– Heinz Lehmann, Corporate Executive Chef North America at Unilever Food Solutions

The jury’s still out

Has poutine had its 15 minutes?

“Poutine has peaked and will plateau for the next couple of years before falling off the radar and making its way back to Québec. Specialty poutine places will continue to exist, thriving on a local-after-the-bars-crowd looking for gut fill. I see poutine slowly disappearing from large chain restaurants as poutine is a nutritional nightmare that doesn’t look good with today’s focus on obesity and healthier menu options.”

– Juriaan Snellen, Corporate Chef, Heinz Canada

The whole maple-bacon thing

“These are in many ways iconic Canadian flavours that are magical because they not only taste great on their own but go great together. That being said, I think the intensity of the ‘OMG – bacon is so good when you put it with something sweet’ is lessening. We know that pairing these flavours is delicious…how could it not be – fat, salt, sugar and a touch of smoke. Those flavours will continue to be used together, but the ‘aha’ of putting them together is no longer new news. What I do think will continue is a focus on maple as a ‘close to home’, ‘back to basics’ ingredient that can be taken in a variety of directions and is multi-purpose enough to play in all menu parts.”

– Kira Smith, Corporate Chef, Kraft Foodservice Canada

The next big thing

Tea’s time?

“I am working with bars and using teas to create mocktails. I mix black tea with sodas, add lavender and fresh basil, and put a scoop of ice cream on top to create an old fashioned float. If you make your mocktails interesting, people won’t miss their vodka. That’s why bartenders now know so much more about herbs.

“Plus tea is gluten free. Sometimes I use green tea, add fresh ginger pieces to fish, and it’s a gluten-free dish.”

– Heinz Lehmann, Corporate Executive Chef North America at Unilever Food Solutions

Get ready for the latest sweet treat

“There could be a new star on the horizon for North America…the éclair.  It continues the ‘nostalgic with a twist’ trend that has been happening with other desserts and in Europe there has been a sort of renaissance with the éclair being taken beyond its classic, basic flavours. When you deconstruct the éclair it is an ideal medium for creativity, as there are potentially four elements to play with – the choux paste shell, the filling, the glaze and the garnish. Also, this item can easily be prepared in a miniature format – a continuing trend in desserts.”

– Kira Smith, Corporate Chef, Kraft Foodservice Canada