Noshtradamus: L.A.’s Top Chefs Predict the Hot Food Trends of 2016

Who says braises are in and avocado toast should just die already?

2015 was a banner year for restaurants opening in every nook of our sprawl, from chic rustic-Italian hot spots in the South Bay to globally inspired flavor bombs in Studio City. With every new menu comes a bevy of trendsetting cooking styles, ingredients, and dishes. But far too often we’re also inundated with the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses trends. A good chef will know the difference. So we asked some of the city’s top toques for their L.A. food predictions for 2016. Like Heidi Klum always says: “Avocado toast, you’re either in…or you’re out!”

Michael Fiorelli, chef and co-owner, Love & Salt
What’s In: “More and more chefs are returning to the classics, and I think that trend will continue in 2016. Think meatballs, eggplant parmesan, tiramisu—the kinds of dishes that we all grew up eating but are now executed with more finesse. I also think that vegetables are going to continue to take center stage on the plate with more attention paid to the techniques that go into their preparation…things like slow cooking, wood-roasting (which has already been gaining in popularity). And approaching vegetable parts that one would normally throw away as part of the zero food waste movement. I also predict that more obscure vegetables will grow in popularity—things like okra, bitter lettuces, sunflower hearts prepared like artichoke hearts, etc.”

Brooke Williamson, co-chef and owner, Playa Provisions, The Tripel, and Hudson House
What’s In: “Things I feel like work for a reason and should never go away: Anything preserved, fermented or cured. These methods not only serve a purpose, but add a level of flavor that cannot be faked. Drinking vinegars, kimchi, fish sauce, salt cod…all incredibly different flavors, but all derived from the same original goal of preservation, and all with incredible pungent, fresh, umami characteristics that play a huge roll in how I like to eat and cook.”
What’s Out: “I say this with reserve, because I feel like trends become so because they started by people enjoying something, but: smoke. I love a good smokey BBQ, or smoked beer, or even a good smoked ice cream, but I think that smoking food has become a bit gratuitous. I feel like on more than one occasion I’ve seen chefs add liquid smoke to a dish or ingredient that didn’t deserve to be close to a real smoker in the first place. Long story short: Don’t turn smoke into the modern day truffle oil!”

Ryan DiNicola, executive chef, chi Spacca
What’s In: “Cuisine from Israel is on the rise. I don’t know how soon it will come to L.A., but the use of high-quality vegetables and simple technique works perfect here. Zahav is definitely helping to popularize the cuisine in America, and Ottolenghi, of course, has helped popularize it internationally. Nancy [Silverton] fell in love with Israeli food when she visited there, and she’s come back and definitely implemented some Israeli influence at all of the restaurants.”
What’s Out: “I may be late to the game saying this, but this idea of offering small plates will go away. We have all figured out that the small plates do not allow us to try more things, like we once thought. It’s basically allowed restaurants to cut portion size and charge what is essentially the same amount as before.”

Ted Hopson, chef and co-owner, The Bellwether
What’s In: “I think there is a return to cooking, the soulful style of cooking.  There will be less sous vide, more braises in 2016. There are less chefs talking about their fluid gels, and more chefs talking about their amazing produce. And vegetable dominance will continue. We now have famers starting to enter the chef community on the forefront. Alex Weiser is working on his grain project, and he’s getting chefs and diners very excited for it.  You have chefs working with farmers on growing certain crops for them. The union of farmer and chef is stronger than ever, and I think this will keep exploding into the new year.”

Ray Garcia, chef and co-owner, Broken Spanish and B.S. Taqueria
What’s In: “The cost of operating a restaurant will become prohibitively high.  Increasing wages, a drought, and the price of real estate will make it increasingly tough for operators in Los Angeles.”

Andrew Kirschner, chef and co-owner, Tar & Roses and Santa Monica Yacht Club
What’s In: “Middle Eastern food, multi-cultural hybrid creations, and fast-casual concepts by well known chefs.”
What’s Out: “Trends I want to see die: Tacos, pizza, hamburgers.”

[Ed. note: Good luck with that one.]

Ori Menashe, chef and co-owner, Bestia
What’s Out: “I hope the avocado toast disappears in 2016. You can keep that trend at home.”