6 Flavor Trends for Food in 2016

We asked some of the country’s busiest chefs and catering companies to weigh in on McCormick’s Flavor Forecast.

McCormick predicts rendang curry will gain popularity in 2016. It’s a rich, fragrant, and mildly spicy blend of ingredients including chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander and turmeric and is most commonly used to make rendang beef, a slow-cooked curry dish popular throughout Southeast Asia.
McCormick predicts rendang curry will gain popularity in 2016. It’s a rich, fragrant, and mildly spicy blend of ingredients including chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander and turmeric and is most commonly used to make rendang beef, a slow-cooked curry dish popular throughout Southeast Asia.
Photo: Courtesy of McCormick

Each year McCormick & Company turns to chefs, trend trackers, and food technologists to create its Flavor Forecast, a prediction of trends and ingredients that will drive menus in the coming year. For 2016, the company predicts spicy and international flavors will be at the forefront.

"Since its inception in 2000, Flavor Forecast has been tracking the growing interest in heat and identifying upcoming spicy flavors including chipotle, peri-peri, and harissa," said McCormick executive chef Kevan Vetter. "Our latest report shows the next wave of this trend is complemented by tang. Look for Southeast Asian sambal sauce powered by chilies, rice vinegar, and garlic to take kitchens by storm."

Here’s a look at the full list of trends with reaction from catering companies and chefs around the country.

1. Heat and tang
Spicy flavors will be mixed with tangy accents, such as rice vinegar, yuzu, tamarind, Meyer lemon, cranberry, kumquats, and ponzu.

“Spicy pepper is very popular, and it's more of a global taste change since it has been around for years but not fully understood. In the Mediterranean area it has been use for centuries. People love the tangy-spicy combination.” , Orlando
Fabrizio Schenardi, executive chef, Four Seasons Resort Orlando

“At MGM Grand, we are creating and exploring the evolution of food like everyone else. We are seeing the usages of spicy flavors such as harissa where we make aioli. It is becoming a popular food item to put on steaks and beef or turkey burgers. We have seen the increased use of chipotle from our chefs in many of our outlets including Hecho En Vegas.”
Carlos Collado, executive director of catering, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

2. Tropical Asian
The flavors of Malaysia and the Philippines will become more popular. Examples include the traditional Filipino street food known as pinoy barbecue, flavored with soy sauce, lemon, garlic, sugar, pepper, banana ketchup, and rendang curry, a Malaysian spice paste made from chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander, and turmeric.

“I feel Malaysia is still a very untapped culinary resource. As we begin to rediscover Southeast Asian cuisine, I feel that we will find [rendang curry] showing up in restaurants across America. Laksa is something that has yet to make a big splash in the U.S., but I feel it is along similar lines.”
André Natera, executive chef, Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Austin, Texas

“I would go a step further and say that modern Hawaiian cuisine will be impactful. The blending in Hawaii of Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Mexican, and Caucasians from across the mainland United States has created a vibrant fusion cuisine that is beginning to solidify into a category all its own.”
Larry Eells, executive chef, Hyatt Regency Orlando

3. Blends with benefits
McCormick predicts that healthy ingredients will become more versatile as they are paired with flavorful herbs and spices. Examples include chia seeds mixed with citrus, chilies, and garlic; ginger and citrus used to balance the bitterness of matcha; and Mediterranean herbs paired with flaxseed.

“The chia seed is not just for the ‘pets’ we remember as kids. It’s great ground and used as a crust on fish or how it plumps immediately when touched with water for a slightly thickened mouth feel. I like to take this bloomed chia seed and place it into a dehydrator. The result is a very fragile chip that can add accents to fish or even lighter roasted meat dishes.”
Daven Wardynski, executive chef, Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Amelia Island, Florida

4. Alternative “pulse” proteins
"Pulses" refers to the dried seed of a legume. Common examples included peas, lentils, and kidney beans. McCormick predicts chefs will starts to use more unusual pulses such as pigeon peas, cranberry beans, and black beluga lentils.

“Our chefs have been reinventing dishes to bring more of the 2016 flavor trends into our menus, most notably, incorporating alternative proteins into our vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The Miller Farms Amish chicken breast packed with beluga lentils and amaranth, glazed with tamari and lime, has been a crowd-pleaser at recent events.”
Myles Bosack, director of marketing, Jewell Events Catering, Chicago

5. Ancestral flavors
McCormick predicts ingredients such as amaranth, mescal, and ancient herbs like thyme, peppermint, lavender, and rosemary, will gain popularity in the coming year.

“Amaranth is one that we like to not only use but also grow in our greenhouse. Those magenta-colored leaves taste like creamy winter spinach, and the rods are full of seeds and add amaranth flavor rockets to a multitude of dishes. It’s also great prepared in the style of risotto. A fun, playful twist that pairs well with mint and basil and even cilantro.”
Daven Wardynski

“We are using a lot more Middle Eastern and Indian flavors in our recipes. Sumac is probably our favorite. Za’atar, fenugreek, and turmeric are in a good portion of what we are serving. We are also trying to incorporate a lot of those flavors in areas where they are generally unexpected, such as cocktails and desserts.”
Chap Gage, president, Susan Gage Caterers, Washington

6. Culinary-infused sips
McCormick predicts that the techniques of pickling, roasting, and caramelizing will be incorporated into cocktails, such as a roasted peanut old-fashioned, a pickled watermelon shrub cocktail, and a peach and vanilla brûlée cocktail.

“We do create four or five pickles in house at all times and serve them in our Regency Club and as condiments on upscale smaller dinners and events. The benefits of the Maillard reaction, in which a substance, through heating, causes a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids in the food and creates the wonderfully rich flavors the Japanese call umami and the rest of us call 'delicious,' is now being used in beverages to great effect. I am certain that the wonderful warmth and depth of beers such as porters and dark ales started this trend.”
Larry Eells

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