Five food trends for 2019
Benugo’s executive head chef, Olivier Dhainaut, marks your card for the year ahead…
Olivier Dhainaut is a classically trained chef from the south of France who moved to the UK in 1991 and went on to spend 12 years as the head chef at the Royal Academy of Arts.
He joined Benugo in 2004, which now has restaurants and cafes across the UK and also runs catering operations for a host of famous museums, galleries and institutions including the V&A, the Natural History Museum, and, of course, 116 Pall Mall.
Olivier recalls, “The first time I visited Britain was in 1986 and the transformation in dining and catering since then has been amazing. I don’t think the food was bad but there was no interest in it. Now, there is an incredibly vibrant food scene.”
He adds, “You pick up on trends by going out, by listening to people, by looking at websites. I see a lot of people thinking about where the next trend is going to be but first we have to be more tolerant about the different foods that people eat.”
Which leads us nicely on to the first of his five trends…
1. “A lot of chefs are realising we can do beautiful meat-free dishes and it doesn’t have to be pasta or risotto. We haven’t done a lot of vegan food, but we need to and we need to be clever about how we do it. However, I don’t think we should make vegan dishes a separate section of the menu - it should simply be judged as a good dish within the main menu.
“We shouldn’t be secular, and the danger is that food is almost turning into some sort of religion. We’re not saving lives here. Let’s have a common goal of being more sensible.”
2. “People are talking about trying to reduce sugar, so we’ve been looking at using more vegetable-based puddings. For example, we could be using swede or carrots or parsley and introducing different flavours.
“But I’m also starting to look at how we can use seaweed, which is really interesting ingredient. We’re only just starting to explore the different ways we can use it in our food.”
3. “I’m discovering new flavours from the Middle East that are fascinating. I recently went to Coal Office, which is in Granary Square, King’s Cross. The head chef, Assaf Granit, is Israeli. The food is beautiful, eclectic and full of flavour. I can see a real opportunity for a new Iranian restaurant. London is a melting pot for bringing together so many different flavours.”
4. “Food can be challenging, and we want to make you think about what you’re eating. At the Welcome Collection we’ve just launched a new afternoon tea. Our pastry chef has designed a cake in the shape of a brain and the theme is around using your senses.
“I think our objective (at 116 Pall Mall) is to build more on events, where we can be creative and do something different that might surprise you. A canape should be one bite with an explosion of flavour.”
5. “Perhaps I’m showing my age a bit, but I find ‘influencers’ quite puzzling. What is happening is that you get a restaurant that is suddenly really busy, but it turns out to be short-lived because that crowd moves on to the next thing. There is almost a mob mentality.
“Restaurants will have to be careful. Of course, you need to be aware of trends but also need to do what suits your business model. The danger will be that restaurants which follow a trend, suddenly find that customers have moved on to something else.”
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