11 Auckland hospo pros on the future of food

by Alice Harbourne / 20 April, 2017

What will we be eating in the year ahead? Read some of these culinary predictions from those in the know.

Al Brown

Al Brown, founder of Depot, Federal Delicatessen and Best Ugly Bagels

“I think at the moment there’s much more emphasis on transparency and where our food comes from. The relationship between the winemaker and a bottle of wine is a good example of where we’re going with food. When you meet the winemaker, a relationship begins through stories and you fall in love with the label. With our restaurants, so much of it is relationship driven. Not just me knowing the grower or winemaker, but all our staff knowing them. And not just them supplying us, but us knowing them and their farm. It’s a storytelling situation where we feel like we’re really connecting – both ways.

“The next thing is wastage. The whole nose-to-tail thing will continue to be relevant. We like to teach people that you can have just as much enjoyment out of a shank as a fillet, or a fish wing or a belly. It’s really important that we teach people that there are other fish out there, through eating smaller fish with bones, eating whole fish and slowing down our eating.  In fact, anything that’s kind of unpopular, or cheaper in terms of produce can often be overlooked, and we’re seeing a real interest in people understanding how to cook those.

“Because we’re such a young country, we should definitely celebrate the food culture that we do have. We’re a frugal bunch and that seems to be coming back now with preserving. It’s a really wonderful thing, and smart to be using all the produce. Plus, preserving is a big adventure. There’s a big pot, the fruit’s basically given to you as it’s so cheap in season. To recall the summer with the peaches everywhere and the smell of vinegar and sugar, but then in the middle of winter when it’s freezing to open a jar and put a peach on your porridge – how good is that? For one moment in your day you’ve captured something from summer.

“This is just my personal view, but flowers on food and art pieces and tiny smears and people using tweezers – it doesn’t fit New Zealand’s style, I don’t believe. We’re about generosity and comfort. We’re after pared-back food, but more of it on the plate.

“I think fire is still a big thing, too. I love it for a whole lot of reasons – flavour, of course, but when you cook with fire or charcoal, there are imperfections and that’s what we’re about, embracing imperfections. I’ve never cooked sous vide in my entire life because the thought of putting something in a bag in some water and then putting my timer on – it doesn’t feel like cooking to me. But building a fire and food being burnt on the edges – that’s cooking and that’s flavour and that’s our game. We don’t want to be perfect, we’re imperfect.”

Megan May

Megan May, chef and co-founder of Little Bird Organics

“Veganism was once a pretty polarising word. But now, due to increased awareness surrounding the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and the detrimental effects of a predominantly meat and dairy-based diet on your health and the environment, it has become a lot more accepted and mainstream. Big companies like Sainsbury’s and Pret A Manger in the UK have jumped on the bandwagon. They’ve picked up on the rapid growth in demand for plant-based options, and focus on offering more vegan and vegetarian products. I can see New Zealand already evolving, and I don’t think it will be too long before the mainstream market starts embracing this way of eating more and more. Once you have the facts, it’s hard to deny that one of the simplest and most beneficial things we can do for ourselves and the environment is to eat more plants.”

Laura Verner, right, with Ed Verner, of Pasture.

Laura Verner co-owner of Pasture

 “This is a time where values are spoken about alongside ingredients, and [these values] determine how and why we do things in our restaurants.”

Renee (right) and Damaris Coulter (left)

Damaris Coulter, co-owner of Coco’s Cantina and co-founder of therealness.world

“There is definitely a move towards the consumer wanting to find a more hands-on or authentic dining experience: restaurants that are smaller, locally owned and operated and more focussed on their craft and the supply chain than the profit, the accolades or fitting into the conventional model. I see a move away from review sites, where the uninformed have become the dominant force and have created platforms vulnerable to pettiness and trolling. At Coco’s we have developed The Realness website, where we’re developing a ‘good diners’ exam that anyone can take for fun. It will be educational and enjoyable, and may help inform diners about the hospitality world, and also educate people who want to know about realistic expectations when dining out. It’s a win-win!”

Leisha Jones

Leisha Jones, Paperboy and Metro food writer

 “I think we will see the rise and celebration of lesser-known cuisines such as Filipino, Nonya, Sri Lankan and Scandinavian food. And after far too long being vilified, carbs are back in the good books: I think we’ll see more people perfecting the art and science of bread making, handmade pasta, and there will be a doughnut shop in every suburb. With more opportunities now for street vendors to test their concept and brand at markets, shared spaces and pop-ups, I think we’ll continue to see more young people making the transition from street food to permanent location – a great thing for our city.”

Al Keating

Al Keating, CEO of Coffee Supreme

“The price of green coffee is up again this year. We know for sure that coffee supply is waning and demand is on the rise. Kids in China are waking up to flat whites, the Brazilians are deciding that they’d like to drink some of the stellar coffee they’ve been producing all this time, and if Starbucks continue to make inroads in India… well, you do the math. All this to say: you could expect to pay more for a flat white, so choose wisely, and choose quality. Also, good-quality black filter coffee will continue to rise in popularity and normality. There’s a reason the coffee industry pours itself a mug of filter every morning at the office. And I hope we quit, as an industry, making people feel stink for ordering milk, milk substitutes, decaf and adding sugar. We do beverages, we should be all-inclusive – if it tastes good, it tastes good. If you have to tattoo ‘death before decaf’ on your forearm, perhaps you should try a different coffee company’s decaf.”

Carlo Buenaventura (right)

Carlo Buenaventura, chef and co-founder of Auckland dining pop-up The Cult Project

“We need to make food more accessible. The people promoting ‘healthy’ food sell it at expensive prices. People who say that organic food is best don’t think about the people who can’t afford it. Why do people go to McDonald’s? Well, people can afford to go there. If we price healthier produce down a little bit, maybe we’ll see a change. That goes for suppliers, too.”

Ruby White(aka Miss Changy)

Ruby White (aka Miss Changy), food writer, cook and pop-up host

“Foraging for food is something that I have become keenly interested in and I think this holistic notion will appeal to a lot of people. Most of us have never farmed or hunted, with marginal success at growing herbs… so the idea of living off our backyard weeds is pretty cool.”

Kyle Street

Kyle Street, co-owner and chef, Culprit

“I don’t stay up to date with too many trends. For me, the restaurants that thrive will be those that celebrate what makes them unique, be it their personalities, style or cuisine, and those that work hard to deliver this vision to the best of their ability. Others may also be inspired to put it on the line and open their own independent cafes and restaurants as we were at Culprit.”

Brandon Walker

Brandon Walker, drinks specialist and manager of Karangahape Road bar Love Bucket

“The natural wine movement has been a runaway train overseas the last couple of years, and more and more natural or ‘living’ wines are popping up on local wine lists. New Zealand winemakers are coming to the party, but we are still only just scratching the surface. Expect to see an increasing range of vibrant, complex and delicious releases from winemakers such as Cambridge Road, Pyramid Valley, Millton, Seresin and Mount Edward, among others.”

Aaron McLean

Aaron McLean, instigator of New Zealand food magazine Stone Soup

“I’d love to see more DIY and hyper-localism in Auckland’s kitchens. We should be eating house-made miso, vinegar, preserves and ferments across the board, not just at Pasture. And we should be eating honey and herbs from more rooftops than Orphans Kitchen.”

Rebecca Smidt (left)

Rebecca Smidt, co-owner of nose-to-tail bistro Cazador

“We don’t need to worry about what’s happening in Melbourne or New York – we have plenty to offer in our own vernacular. I think in 2017 we will see a closer connection between growers, producers and kitchens, and a consumer interest in authenticity. This will push restaurants to be more responsive to our own context, rather than to follow what’s happening in Copenhagen or wherever else is trendy.”

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