Now that we’ve settled comfortably into a new year, following a flurry of summer openings from Long Chim, Betty’s Burgers and the long-awaited return of Stokehouse, it’s time to look forward. What can we expect from the best in Melbourne in 2017?
We could sit here, in our office, eating bespoke Kit Kats and waxing lyrical about the new food trends WE think are going to take off this year—but we already did that. So, instead, we thought we’d go straight to the source this time...
Here are some of Melbourne’s best chefs on their hottest food predictions for 2017—including a return to charcoal, the rise of vinegar in dessert, and the death of sous vide.
"My pick on food trends would be using more vinegars as an acid component in dessert menus. At Supernormal we have used a mandarin vinegar in a custard, and we are currently using rose vinegar to offset any sweetness to help balance the dish.
We also are using a bit of Koji. We use it to add depth of flavour to our chicken by marinating overnight. We also use it to season sometimes, instead of using salt. It gives it a full umami flavour and a bit of funk. Has been around for a little while, but not many people have fully explored the endless uses for this ingredient."
St Kilda Burger Bar & Grosvenor Hotel
With the cost of food and labour rising, we should be looking for cost-effective ways to improve flavour that are not so labour intensive—cooking on coals, in my eyes, is the ultimate way to achieve this.
To combat the skill shortage we are seeing I think we will also see some interesting partnerships arise in small venues. [We will also see] chefs go out on their own into small venues with a small team and limited menu offerings, specialising in one or two things.”
“The ongoing rise in kitchen sustainability [will be a trend in 2017], and with it the death of sous vide.
The two go hand in hand. If you see a restaurant kitchen at the end of the night that still uses sous vide, all you will see is a bin full of the plastic bags. It was that vision of unrecyclable waste that put an end to my sous vide days back in 2010. We need to do our best to reduce food waste where we can.
We grow the majority of my kitchen’s produce in the Oakridge kitchen garden. It reduces food miles, and ensures that “ugly vegetables” aren’t wasted... and beyond that, we strive to use all parts of the vegetable/animal so that nothing is wasted. It makes for more creative dishes and interesting flavours.”
Saigon Sally & Tokyo Tina
[Chefs] have their own ideas about what they want to cook, and the delivery-only trend makes it viable [for those trying out new ideas], such as their parents recipes or other niche dishes such as poké.
We started a business, Point Break Poké, at the end of last year, which literally specialises in one thing: poke.”
Royal Mail Hotel
“Diners want more transparency on what they are eating—meaning less use of ingredients with unknown origins.
Diners are becoming increasingly more well informed about what they eat and why. They want to see restaurants serving up meals that compliment the restaurant, it surroundings and the chef’s skills. When diners visit the Royal Mail, they are encouraged to visit the Royal Mail’s kitchen garden ahead of dining in the restaurant to see firsthand where the produce is coming from.
We harvest produce from our kitchen garden, and are focussed on simply getting the best flavour from ingredients at hand. Nothing goes on our menu that cannot be grown our kitchen garden - so you will never find banana or pineapple on our menus, because these ingredients don’t thrive in regional Victoria’s climate.”
“People want simpler and more casual offerings, less fussy, and focused on a couple of ingredients.
This is because people like places they can go to frequently and build relationships with staff. They like places that are reasonably priced, but with quality food. Menus will continue to become more straightforward, with less competing dishes.
At Betty's, the menu is tight, focused and approachable - you can go there once or twice a week.”
“As seafood is constantly talked about these days in terms of sustainability and responsibility, Akachochin believes that using different types of fish, as the Japanese often do, will become more commonplace.
While there is a more conscious move by the consumer to ask where fish is sourced, or is farmed, or is imported or caught ethically without damaging the fragile ecosystem, they also need to start looking at trying lesser-known fish.
Next time you eat fish, ask where it comes from, and if it is sustainable.”
“Many cultures have practised fermentation for thousands of years—kimchi and sauerkraut are some of the most popular examples. It has huge health benefits along with adding flavour to dishes where a sour element and umami is required.
The Thais have also used fermentation to make food stores last longer and to enhance flavour. Fermented anchovy sauce—famous in the Isaan som dtum (green papaya salad) is one of the most common. They also ferment pork, which to a westerner sounds not only odd, but dangerous given how scared we’ve been made to feel about any meat left to ferment or go past its use by date.
BangPop [has seen the rise of fermentation as a trend], and currently serve a Sat Ooua (Lanna sausage) which has a slighlty sour taste along with turmeric and other Thai herbs. We also serve a sour pork salad as a special occasionally, which is a classic Thai dish not often seen in Australia.”
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Image credit: Jess Prince