From crêpes and fondue to tapas and specialty coffees, culinary trends in America have covered a lot of ground in the past 20 years. In 1978 who could have predicted a 24-hour television network devoted to food or guessed that our national obsession with slimness would lead to olestra--nonfat fat? FOOD & WINE decided to get a jump on the developments of the next two decades by asking restaurant reviewers, food scientists, cultural commentators and other pundits to predict what, where and how we'll all be cooking and eating in the year 2018. Here's what they had to say:
Successful cloning advanceswill lead to an Alice Waters and a Wolfgang Puck in every corner of the globe. Technology will allow those who are curious to visit restaurants on-line, almost as if they were accompanying a reviewer. Newspaper critiques will come with taste swatches. In a trend that will take off where grazing ends, people will beam themselves from course to course: a starter in Hong Kong, a main course in Paris, a dessert in Manhattan.
Tom Sietsema,restaurant producer and food critic for Washington Sidewalk, a Microsoft on-line entertainment guide
I hope that a kind of peasant cookingwill reestablish itself, with people enjoying pure, simple foods made with locally available and organically grown ingredients.
Alice Waters, chef-owner of Chez Panisse, Berkeley, California
Nonstick stainless steelis going to change the way people cook. This material was developed for the lining of French rocket engines, and it's currently used in cookware on a limited basis. Unlike standard nonstick, it can handle very high heat, won't be damaged by metal utensils and can go in the dishwasher or the oven.
Steven Bridge, co-owner of Bridge Kitchenware, Manhattan
Sanitation will be a big issue.There will be lots of new rules and a very sterile environment. Chefs will look like surgeons. The older I get, the less I want anyone handling my food. When I'm served a complicated-looking dish, I think, "How many people have touched this?"
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, chef-owner of Jean Georges, Manhattan
In the past, aspiring chefs apprenticed in France. I think that more chefs will get their training in other parts of the world. They'll find a great Chinese chef and work with him or her in China, or they'll go to Japan, Thailand or India. There's considerable interest in the cuisines of these countries but few chefs in the United States to teach them.
Ruth Reichl, restaurant critic for The New York Times
I recently read about a place in Spainwhere the chef serves flavored air as a course. Waiters bring tall, thin glasses filled with vapor and you sniff it up. That sounds like the food of the future.
Richard Klein, author of Eat Fat (Vintage) and professor of French at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Farmers and suppliers will tag food with what I'm calling ethical biographies. They'll describe the farm where the food came from, how the animal was fed or the crops were sprayed, and the pathway from farm to market.
Faith Popcorn, founder and chairwoman of BrainReserve, a Manhattan-based company that forecasts the future
Two reasons fewer people cook at home are smaller households and working women. By analyzing U.S. census statistics from the past 35 to 40 years and with the help of a see-through plastic ruler and graph paper, I've projected that by 2018 the average size of a family will be reduced to one: everyone in America will be living alone. All women who are older than 18 will be working outside the home, and all women will be older than 18. So there will be no one to maintain the tradition of cooking at home unless male hobbyists continue holding the banner aloft, as they do now.
Jeffrey Steingarten, food critic for Vogue and author of The Man Who Ate Everything (Knopf)
Restaurants will deliver foodright to your home through a network of pneumatic tubes. The meal might not be elegantly presented after it finishes the trip, but it'll be pretty easy to get.
Tim Zagat, president of Zagat Survey restaurant guides
We may be eating carrots grown from carrot cells rather than from seeds and beef produced from beef cells that are several generations removed from the cow.
Charles T. Bourland, manager of space station food at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Americans will be dining out a lot more. In fact, the home kitchen may become something vestigial, like a sixth toe. It may also become a high-tech command central with a flash freezer, an induction cooker and sealed food packets. In 20 years we may not be able to get a Jane Jetson haircut out of a machine, but we'll be able to get lunch.
Clark Wolf, Manhattan-based food and restaurant consultant
We'll have simple blood teststhat you can take at home to figure out your risk for developing an illness like heart disease, asthma or cancer. Then you'll go to virtual supermarkets on your computer and buy foods that have the potential for reducing the risk of those particular ailments or easing the symptoms.
Fergus Clydesdale, professor and chairman of the Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
The art of conversation won't be part of the new world of eating, what with young people on dates facing computers at cyber-cafés. I'm sure you'll be able to wear headphones at the table to listen to the music of your choice.
Letitia Baldrige, authority on manners
MALIA BOYD is a freelance writer who lives in New Orleans.