By Denise O’Toole Kelly | News-JournalOnline.com
You read it here first, in this space almost exactly one year ago: Gourmet food trucks like those popular in big cities for years would finally make their local debut in 2012.
That prediction from Chef Costa Magoulas, dean of the culinary and hospitality management school at Daytona State College, came true pretty quickly. The Orlando-based Food Truck Bazaar, which brings together a diversity of mobile window-service restaurants for a few hours, rolled first into Orange City in early March and before long was a monthly fixture there and in a few other Volusia County towns, as well as a popular feature at occasional community festivals throughout the area. High-end food trucks also soon started to show up independently in parking lots to serve workplace crowds and other any-day diners.
Because that forecast was so accurate, going back to Chef Costa for some hometown gastronomic prognostication for 2013 was an easy call. Sure, there’s no shortage of food trendspotting on the Internet this time of year. But national novelties can take a while to be in vogue in Volusia and in fashion in Flagler counties, and our top-ranking culinary educator is tuned in not only to his contacts across the country in the big professional associations but also to local chefs and food vendors.
Many restaurant chefs will focus on keeping prices down in the new year, he said. For instance, he added, some are looking to serve less expensive cuts of meat that require more cooking but are quite tasty when prepared well. “They are even considering smaller portion sizes at lower cost, and bundling meals — appetizer or soup, entree, dessert, beverage, one price,” Chef Costa said.
More healthful cooking in places from school cafeterias to upscale restaurants will be all the rage, he said. “Chefs will try to cook adding more flavor to food and reducing the fat and sodium, without changing the taste profile,” he explained.
Chef Costa noted that presentations at regional and national conferences of the American Culinary Federation in the coming year will highlight healthy baking, beer brewing, pickling, artisan cheese making and cake decorating, meaning a pretty good chance the group’s 20,000 chefs will carry those pursuits back to communities such as ours.
Smart phones and tablet computers such as iPads will play bigger roles in restaurant dining, even as vehicles for paying for meals, he said.
Here are some other new or expanding wrinkles Chef Costa said he sees taking shape in 2013:
locally sourced meat, seafood and produce;
– healthy kids’ meals as a culinary nutritional theme;
– restaurants growing their own herbs and some vegetables on site;
– gluten-free cuisine;
– beer sommeliers pairing food with beer.
There’s one trend, though, that seems to have lost a little of its luster already.
“Food trucks were hot last year but are not even in the top 10 this year,” Chef Costa observed, noting legal and location obstacles in some juridictions.