These Will Be the Biggest Food Trends of 2020, According to Chefs
Leading up to 2019, chefs predicted more plant-based meals, fast-casual dining, and kelp, and their predictions came to fruition, to varying degrees, over the last year in dining rooms around the country.
As we wrap up the decade and look forward to 2020, we asked celebrated chefs and industry experts to predict what’s next. The 34 chefs we spoke with are forecasting sherry, sustainable seafood, smoked everything, lots of bread, and so much more. Below, check out the 22 trends that will dominate kitchens, bars, and restaurants next year.
“As a young cook/sous chef working in the age of 'bad boy' chefs, I think the newer chefs are more focused on health, mindful eating, sustainable foods and lifestyles, and fitness. Thus cooking with that mindset. Food to fuel the mind body and spirit.” — Cassidee Dabney, chef of Blackberry Farm in Tennessee
“We’ve been educated in the good of real sourdoughs, local, organic, and GMO-free cereals, heritage wheats, and antique grains. It’s truly better than ever before, available almost everywhere you turn and probably made by someone you know.” — Angela Pinkerton, chef and partner of Che Fico and Che Fico Alimentari in San Francisco
"I think smoking is going to be very big in 2020. In addition to its dramatic appearance at the table, smoking provides a certain umami needed in an increasingly plant-based food space. At Tuome, we use a special Chinese tea with a BBQ fragrance that's perfect for adding a deeper level of richness to dishes. I'm currently experimenting with smoked butter, which is perfect for adding a smokiness to vegetables or enjoying with bread." — Thomas Chen, chef at Tuome in New York
An even bigger emphasis on the environment
“Above all, we hope to see restaurants and chefs showing uncompromising commitment to sourcing from producers whose practices are humane, ethical, and designed to regenerate the soil and encourage biodiversity in order to sequester carbon. We’re all a part of the conversation on the climate emergency and have no excuse for not being proactive. This extends to integrating practices like using biodegradable cleaning products wherever possible, reducing waste, and composting. We also hope to see people demand more high-nutrient vegetables and grains and less animal protein and sugar in every level of dining.” — Samantha Kincaid and Jon Nodler, chefs and owners of Cadence in Philadelphia
“I think that you’re going to see a continued emphasis on sustainability. Sourcing locally and seasonally isn’t good enough anymore, and I believe moving forward we will continue to push towards a heightened knowledge and awareness of our consumption of our most finite resources.” — Brady Williams, chef of Canlis in Seattle
More sustainable seafood
“Definitely caulini. It's a new hybrid vegetable that tastes great and is low on prep. Extra bonus is that it looks great on a plate. Also, I see a trend of more chefs searching out sustainable fish and seafood options — let's get our guests willing to try other options besides salmon and shrimp!” — Andrew Carmellini, chef and owner of NoHo Hospitality and Rye Street Tavern in Baltimore
“In 2019, we saw that sustainable cooking and sourcing is becoming less of an aspiration and more of an expectation. So many restaurants have made positive changes to how and where they source their food, however we anticipate 2020 will bring even bigger changes, especially when it comes to sourcing seafood. At odo we’ve sourced our ingredients locally—including our seafood, since we opened, where as many Japanese restaurants here in New York City consider “premium” fish to come from Japan. However, more and more Japanese restaurants are realizing that sourcing domestically doesn’t mean there is any sacrifice in quality. Therefore, we anticipate more Japanese restaurants will be exploring dish preparations with fish from Maine, Long Island, and other East Coast cities.” — Hiroki Odo, chef and owner of Michelin-starred odo and HALL in New York
“Urban agriculture, hyper-local ingredients that are readily available, and sustainable fish—more awareness of ocean issues and environmental impact.” — Amy Brandwein, chef/owner of Centrolina and Piccolina in Washington, D.C.
More hyper-regional cooking
“Regional food will be broken into micro-regions. Southern will break up into Appalachian, Lowland, Creole, etc. Mexican restaurants will be Veracruz, Oaxaca, Yucatan, etc. It's a great way to learn about the food of other cultures.” — Josh Habiger, chef at Bastion in Nashville
"In 2020, I think that we're going to be lifting up marginalized voices even more. I think that we'll continue to see greater representation of women in the kitchen, and that we're going to see even more of these regional cuisines gaining the spotlight with an increase in single-dish concepts, similar to what you might see at a street hawker in Singapore. With so many food halls and small retail spaces, it'll be easier to see someone really excel in a single dish, than have to build out an entire concept." — Salil Mehta, chef at Laut Singapura
Sherry, accessible wine, and juice pairings
“Juices and other interesting beverage pairings will take another leap again to the main stage.” — Justin Cogley, chef of Aubergine in Carmel-by-the-Sea
“Sherry will become the new thing to sip on, on the heels of the amari trend.” — Chad Williams, chef and owner of Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia
More women in charge
Butcher shops, bakeries and restaurant kitchens helmed, diners and dining rooms in check. It’s the coolest time to be a woman boss. If there’s business to be done, we are most certainly on it, and we are changing the language of it all." — Angela Pinkerton, chef and partner of Che Fico and Che Fico Alimentari in San Francisco
Family-style dining, still
“More family-style offerings: I think most restaurants will start offering this, even in fine dining. The act of sharing a plate with someone is so ancestral. It not only encourages conversation but makes dining a more communal act and team sport.” — Kwame Onwuachi, executive chef of Kith/Kin in Washington, D.C.
“I think a big trend for 2020 is going to be first generation Americans, children of immigrants cooking their food unashamed. We have been cooking Eurocentric cuisine as the standard. All culinary classes are based off of these cuisines. We were so afraid to speak up because no one understood sazón, and there wasn’t a proper jury of our peers to even evaluate our distinct cuisines. However, we’re finally gaining control of the narrative and bringing our culture, dreams and heritage to our restaurants and plates. 2020 is the year of flavor.” — Paola Velez, executive pastry chef at Kith/Kin in Washington, D.C.
“There will be a slow but steady revitalization of Chinese-American food. Increasingly more young and ambitious Chinese-American chefs are etching their version of Chinese food onto the culinary map. And whether their concepts are upscale or casual, they are starting to shift the national dialogue about Chinese culture and cuisine." — Simone Tone, chef of Little Tong Noodle Shop and soon-to-open Silver Apricot in New York
“I think tradition will be very important in 2020, the food of our grandparents. Foods that represent personal and shared histories, without fuss.” — Josh Kulp, chef at Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago
“A trend I’ve been enjoying and looking forward to is necessities in plating. Why garnish everything with sorrel or flowers if they don’t add to the dish? Or spending 12 hours to make a lemon ash that only adds color? I’m excited to see simple clean plating so the food speaks louder.” — Meagan Stout, executive chef at Noelle in Nashville
Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables
“Plant-based foods and all things vegetables! People are realizing that they are too focused on protein sources and are moving to vegetables and plant-based alternatives. Quality farming will be more on the forefront with the guarantee of being sustainable and without the use of harmful chemicals linked to many human illnesses like cancer. — Gabriel Kreuther, chef of Two-Michelin-Starred Gabriel Kreuther Restaurant in New York
“I think there will be an emphasis on healthier plant-based options that will focus on the connection between what we eat and how it fuels the mind, body and soul. Wild food, foraging and vegetables will take a front seat in the kitchen in 2020. Simplicity and elegance in cooking and plating will showcase clean, bright and bold flavors." — Christopher Hathcock, chef at Husk Savannah in Savannah
“The hearty vegetables will continue to take over the world and most likely replace a lot of the main courses.” — Justin Cogley, chef of Aubergine in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Even higher quality meat
“There has been in increase in demand for high-quality, hormone-free meat options that I believe will continue to advance in 2020. Not only in steakhouses, but also in other restaurant models where people are looking for top choice, unprocessed proteins. Red meat was once looked down upon or seen as unhealthy because of the fat content, but as more research is conducted and new diets like paleo, keto and high protein diets become more popular, unprocessed beef is becoming a go-to option.” — Michael Lomonaco, chef and partner at Porter House Bar and Grill, Center Bar and Hudson Yards Grill in New York
“Diners seem to be trending more and more toward interaction with restaurants and kitchens. I foresee more open kitchens, counters, and service lead by back of house teams. This would include things like smaller tasting menus and more crafted experiences.” — Dave Beran, chef and owner of Michelin-starred Dialogue and pasjoli in Santa Monica
“More interactive dining, with open kitchens and chef’s tables becoming the norm.” — Christopher Gross, chef at The Wrigley Mansion in Phoenix
“Looking ahead to the new year, I’m looking at dinner journeys and experiences such as private underground supper clubs.” — Jennifer Carroll, co-executive chef of Spice Finch in Philadelphia
More accommodations to dietary restrictions
Open hearth cooking
“Live fire/wood fire cooking will be a big 2020 trend. We have been seeing it more often and diners love the idea of getting to interact with and watch their meals being prepared. Everyone knows about a wood fire oven for pizza but the open hearth gives you more options. It’s an old style of cooking brought back that gives the food more flavor and also doubles as a live show for diners while they wait to eat.” — Antimo DiMeo, Chef and Owner at Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington, Delaware
"I think 2020 will be the next generation of wood fire cooking. Expect to see more custom grill suites that allow chefs to regulate smoke and temperature. It’s no longer just wood fire as a cooking medium but a seasoning and a hot holding (almost sous vide style), smoking, and science/chemistry. At Sawyer's (recently opened in Cleveland's Van Aken District), the menu is centered around wood-fired cooking as well as the chapa, a versatile live fire cooking tool most commonly known in Argentina’s Patagonia and Italy’s Abruzzo regions. We're also using a josper, a combination grill and oven fueled by glowing coals. The chapa is essentially an inch-thick slab of steel that is placed right on top of the fire; allowing a range of cooking styles by hanging ingredients at various heights, whether smoking meat, cooking vegetables directly over coals, or searing octopus on the grill-top." — Jonathon Sawyer, chef and owner of The Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat in Cleveland
Hospitality … and foie gras?
“Restaurants going back to being accommodating to guests and making that a huge emphasis. No more declining guest needs, we'll see restaurants start to be more accommodating again. Service being a key to that. Separately, we'll see the return of foie gras to California.” — Neal Fraser, Chef/Partner at Redbird in Los Angeles
“I think there will be a rise in itameshi cuisine! Itameshi, which translates to 'Italian food' in Japanese and is the melding of Japanese and Italian cuisines, has risen in popularity in recent years. Both country’s recipes are similarly tradition- and ingredient-driven, with a focus on perfecting singular dishes and techniques over time. They also have categorical foods that echo one another: crudos and sashimi, spaghetti and ramen, and wood-fired, whole roasted meats, whether on a robata or in a pizza oven. Many Japanese chefs have gone to Italy to apprentice and come home with traditional Italian cooking techniques that they then use with Japanese ingredients. Itameshi dishes meld the cuisines of two countries that at first glance seem different, but upon diving deeper perfectly complement each other.” — Gene Kato, chef/partner of Momotaro in Chicago
Fine dining isn’t dead …
“Haute cuisine will make a comeback!” — Michael Sichel, executive chef of Gabrielle in Charleston
… but it will be more communal
"In 2020, we’ll see American fine dining take on a new and more accessible form to address a shift in the way people are eating. Younger generations, who are dining out in larger groups and more frequently than ever, are placing value on restaurants that they feel comfortable in and can return to. There will always be a place for special occasions' dining in the industry, but I predict more upscale hospitality concepts will adapt their offerings to match a more social and communal style of eating, using international dining cultures (like Israeli and Korean) as inspiration.” — Shaun Hergatt, executive chef and partner at Vestry in New York
Death of the kids menu
“As a mother myself, I believe that kids will be dining with a more sophisticated palate in 2020 and we will see the departure of dedicated kids menus. Thanks to Instagram and the overwhelming amount of food content and imagery readily available, kids are eager to try a lot more. Millennials, more than any other generation prior, are also exposing their children to food with spice and multicultural cuisines at a much earlier age. At CHICA, our team is trained to help guide parents with great options for their children throughout the menu of what could be perceived as exotic, but really what kid could say no to colorful arepas and other visually appealing Latin-American favorites?” — Lorena Garcia, executive chef and partner of CHICA in Miami and Las Vegas