Experts predict the food trends of 2019

Daniel Neman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

No. No. A thousand times, no.

I am speaking, of course, about a food trend for 2019 that has been predicted by more than one culinary prognosticator. I am speaking, of course, about kelp.

“Kelp, kelp and more kelp,” said Marc Murphy, a New York-based chef, cookbook author and judge on the cooking-competition show “Chopped.”

“It’s a sustainable option that’s good for diners and the oceans, so you’ll see a lot more of it,” he said to Food & Wine.

No. Just no. No, no and more no.

Just because kelp is sustainable and it’s good for oceans does not mean kelp is good for diners.

It’s kelp. It’s algae. It’s seaweed. It is a punchline. It is not a meal.

There may be a lot of it, but we don’t have to eat it. Do you know what else there are a lot of? Insects. A few years ago, trend-spotters everywhere were predicting we’d soon be munching away on fricasseed grasshopper and sauteed cockroaches.

How did that turn out for you?

Maybe people on the coasts will end up eating more kelp than is good for them, which is to say any amount of kelp, but I can’t see it making its way to us in the Midwest. That’s just too far to travel for something that ends up being kelp.

Fortunately, not all of the predicted trends are quite so exasperating. Michelle Bernstein, a cookbook author and owner of the soon-to-open Cafe La Trova in Miami, told Food & Wine that she expects to see the flavors of Latin America spreading across this country.

That makes sense. More chefs are coming here from Central and South America, and they are bringing their flavor combinations and cooking techniques with them. It’s probably just a coincidence that Cafe La Trova will serve Cuban food.

Restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian, who is also a judge on “Chopped,” suggested that the fast-casual craze will spread to even more cuisines — and will start to use more luxury ingredients.

Fast-casual restaurants make food to order, but quickly, like Chipotle or Blaze Pizza. Zakarian certainly knows what he is talking about, and this prediction seems to have more credibility than, say, a new trend in kelp souffle. But Gerard Craft’s fast-casual Italian place, Porano in downtown St. Louis, didn’t last long.

The folks at Kroger also have spoken up with some trends in 2019, including one that seems like a sure thing: regional flavors. That is, flavors that are popular regionally gaining more widespread acceptance.

Take, for instance, the taste of Nashville hot chicken, which is now available on potato chips (that are sold, not surprisingly, at Kroger). Or Southern pimento cheese, which is also available at Kroger on potato chips. Or the taste of a Cuban sandwich (also on chips) or — and this one intrigues me most of all — bourbon barrel-flavored cola soda.

Kroger also foresees its customers asking for more products with low sugar or no sugar, or that are sweetened with natural sweeteners. Of course, sugar is a natural sweetener, or at least unrefined sugar is, but they mean things like agave syrup and honey.

Again, common sense appears to be on their side with this prediction. A recent study showed that 32 percent of consumers are actively trying to eat less sugar now than they did 12 months ago.

Kroger, Forbes, Whole Foods and Food & Wine all predict that we’ll be seeing more plant-based foods in the coming year than we have before, whether we want to or not. They all seem to think it is a good thing, but maybe they just like being trendy.

Meanwhile, the people at Bon Appetit came up with a different take on food trends. They listed the trends they hope disappear this year.

They don’t like “tiny tiny water glasses” and scallops everywhere, sweet hummus (such as hummus with chocolate mixed in it) and coconut chips. Nor are they fond of orange wine and drinks made out of dried, powdered mushrooms.

Orange wine? Drinks made out of powdered mushrooms?

Two more reasons to be glad trends take so long to come to the Midwest.