We hope that (most of) these trends follow us into the new year. 

By Regan Stephens
Updated December 09, 2019

‘Tis the season—to celebrate with friends and family, to overindulge in holiday feasts, and to look back with nostalgia at all the trends that dominated the dinner table over the last twelve months.

We talked with dozens of chefs, somms, and restaurant industry experts to find out the trends they felt defined dining in 2019. Some of it made sense, some of it made us feel inspired, and some of it made us cringe (no offense to White Claw nation.)

Excerpted from Foundations of Flavor: The Noma Guide to Fermentation by Rene Redzepi and David Zilber (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Evan Sung. Illustrations by Paula Troxler.

Below, find 15 biggest food trends of the year, according to chefs across the country.

Fermented everything

Courtesy of Amazon

“Fermented vegetables and dry-aging fish—although these practices and techniques have been done for hundreds of years I think we saw a boom last year, due to more literature being published, including David Zilber’s The Noma Guide to Fermentation, as well as a general understanding that time, temperature, humidity, and patience can lead to delicious results.” — Kwame Onwuachi, executive chef of Kith/Kin and Food & Wine Best New Chef 2019

“I’m pretty sure every chef hopped on the fermentation train after David Zilber’s book came out.” — Cassidee Dabney, chef at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee

“Fermented everything, miso everything, garum everything. (I do it, too!)" — Josh Habiger, chef of Bastion in Nashville and Food & Wine Best New Chef 2012

Tiny spaces

Aubrie Pick

“Contrasted with big-budget projects, we appreciate small business like Kumiko in Chicago and Nightshade in L.A.—both F&W Best New Restaurant winners—really engaging the design and build out of their space.” — Samantha Kincaid and Jon Nodler, chefs and owners of Food & Wine Best New Restaurant 2019, Cadence in Philadelphia

Big beef

Benjamin Hager

“The bigger, the better when it comes to beef. Sharable steaks, big rib eye, big porterhouse.” — Neal Fraser, chef and partner at Redbird in Los Angeles

Non-alcoholic drink culture

Chelsie Craig

“I’ve seen really interesting non-alcoholic drinks become increasingly popular, especially in young, hip places. For example, Caje Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara is serving the most interesting coffee and tea drinks/cocktails that are so complex, and made with the same care that a mixologist would behind the bar. They use fresh, hand-ground coffee (not using beans that have been roasted over a week before) to create syrups and garnishes in a way that they’ve never been used before in these types of drinks. I think there is more and more demand for this non-alcoholic drink culture in a way I haven’t seen before. And since I love coffee, I find this to be so very cool!” — Susan Feniger, chef and co-owner of Socalo in Los Angeles and Border Grill in Las Vegas

Family-friendly dining

Jim Sullivan

“I think there is more thought going into family-friendly dining. Children's menus are being curated with more thought and precision. Birdie G's in LA is a great example. Also Plow in San Francisco. People are more food savvy than ever before and most of my friends and family find it important to educate their children on food and dining. The only way for kids to become more adventurous eaters is through exposure. My wife and I eat almost every meal with our kids. They help with prep and gain knowledge through the cooking process. They are involved with the shopping, too. Taking them to restaurants also helps them develop early social skills and polite manners.” — Michael Gaines, chef at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach

Old-school white tablecloth dining

Christian Seel

“I firmly believe that 2019 was a return to white tablecloth dining, a number of my closest chef friends saw a large increase in guests from around the world. People have to eat and they love to celebrate. Also, tableside presentations and getting the guests involved in the dining experience was back again.” — Justin Cogley, chef of Aubergine in Carmel-by-the-Sea

“Paying respect to classic techniques and dishes, like Duck a L’Orange and Lobster Thermidor.” — Michael Sichel, executive chef of Gabrielle in Charleston

Large-format dining, still

Andrew Bezek

“While it was once common for each person at the table to get their own dishes, we have noticed a rise in ordering for the table and sharing multiple dishes among guests. With that in mind, the team at Bardea created a whole 'Feed the Table' section of our menu which features large format dishes that are ideal for sharing amongst larger groups. — Antimo DiMeo, chef and owner of Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington, Delaware

“2019 seemed to be the year of elevated casual restaurants. In general there has been an uptrend toward restaurants finding a little more refinement. Casual restaurants seemed to push more luxury ingredients as well as larger format, higher price point items that are table share." — Dave Beran, chef and owner of Michelin-starred Dialogue and pasjoli

Peak hard seltzer

Chicago Tribune/Getty Images

“I think/hope this past year we hit 'peak' hard seltzer. It seemed to be the drink of summer and I started to see entire sections of cocktail menus devoted to the trend.” —Brady Williams, chef of Canlis in Seattle

Sustainable, "zero waste" food

Mitchell Feinberg

"In general, consumers are much more engaged and interested in what they are eating and want to know more about it: where it comes from, who is behind it, how it’s done, and if it’s sustainable and humane. 2019 has brought about an increase in quality versus quantity, as well as an interest in building relationships with food providers." — Gabriel Kreuther, chef and owner of Two-Michelin-Starred Gabriel Kreuther Restaurant in New York

“Recently, I’ve seen a huge push towards food alternatives such as the Impossible Burger and dairy-free milks. It’s a cool trend—it’s hard to find ‘clean’ cattle sources, that are hormone-free, grass-fed, and ethically raised, especially at affordable prices. Alternatives mean fewer hormones and chemicals entering into the consumers body and hopefully leads to positive changes towards clean eating.” — Yolanda Torres, Chef de Cuisine at Willa Jean in New Orleans

“Sustainability and zero-waste initiatives have become increasingly more prevalent in restaurants. Climate change has been a big issue, which consequently has made sustainability become an important topic, especially within restaurants. We’ve also seen consumers at Oceana become more conscious and curious of their food choices and their impact on the environment.” — Bill Telepan, executive chef of Oceana in New York

“Zero food waste. Restaurants upcycling their products and figuring out how to impact the amount of food waste that’s being produced. At Southern Belle and Georgia Boy, for instance, we’re putting a lot of energy and thought into how to use waste and are focusing on a zero-waste model.” — Joey Ward, executive chef and owner of Southern Belle and Georgia Boy in Atlanta

Hyper-regional cooking

Sarah Crowder

"For me, I saw 2019 as a year where folks started homing in on very specific styles of food—instead of Italian or Southeast Asian, concepts really dove into a single regional cuisine such as that of Emilia Romagna or Singapore specifically. This was really exciting as I saw it as a great step towards people really understanding cultural traditions rather than just skimming the surface of these rich histories." — Salil Mehta, chef of Laut Singapura

Personal cooking

Jenni Hwang

“Modern American cuisine also took a backseat while chefs focused on their roots, sourcing inspiration from family heritage and cultural experiences. Exploring diversity in cuisine and using recipes passed down from generation to generation was a big trend in 2019.” — Christopher Hathcock, chef of Husk Savannah

“We saw more personal truth with food in restaurants as opposed to what fits traditionally in a box. Chefs were more confident to say this is who I am and how I want to share it on the plate. I think we will only see this continue in 2020." — David Nayfeld, chef of Che Fico and Che Fico Alimentari in San Francisco

Industry-wide push for inclusion

Hero Images/Getty Images

“2019 was the year that the restaurant industry realized it was high time to acknowledge the many contributions of minorities and people of color. That to me was one of the best culinary trends I have seen in a very long time.” — Edward Lee, culinary director of Succotash Penn Quarter in Washington, D.C.

Mainstream veganism

Westend61/Getty Images

“More vegetable-forward, vegan menu items—adding those dishes to my menus, and becoming more creative with these ingredients, is more on my mind now than ever. Overall, cooking for any and all dietary needs and being excited about doing so, rather than looking at is as something we must accommodate. It really pushes my creativity.” — Marcie Turney, chef and owner of Barbuzzo and We Love 13th Street restaurant group in Philadelphia

Next-level Korean-American cooking

Diane Kang

"The trend that excited me the most was the increasing number of new high-end and innovative contemporary Korean-American restaurants that opened in New York. I can feel and taste the passion, dedication, and focus that these restaurants and chefs have for their work. They are showcasing myriad Korean flavors and letting the country know that ethnic food doesn't have to just be rustic or straight out of grandma's kitchen; it can be fun, modern, and creative as well." — Simone Tong, chef and owner of Little Tong Noodle Shop and soon-to-open Silver Apricot in New York

Dry Reisling

Now before you proclaim you only drink pinot noir, remember what red wine does to your teeth. To avoid stains, drink a glass of white--or better yet, champagne--instead.
Courtesy of PureWow

One of my favorite trends in the wine world is Riesling going dry, especially in Germany, where they are considered to have some of the planet's greatest vineyards. For centuries, the majority of these wines were bottled with sugar, making them sweet. While sommeliers and sweet-flavor-appreciating guests raved about these wines, most people just didn't enjoy them due to their levels of residual sugar. Nowadays, these same immaculate vineyards and their talented vignerons are releasing dry rieslings – and the wines are crazy good. These vineyards convey their complexity just as well and almost overnight have invited the entire wine community to indulge in their complex aromatics and zippy palates. Look for words like Trocken and Grosses Gewachs, or make sure the alcohol is listed on the bottle as over 12%.” — Richard Hanauer, Wine Director, RPM Restaurants in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year, 2015

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