Cool cab­bage ( kale type of veg­etable with curly dark green leaves)

Vocable (All English) - - Société - SA­MAN­THA BOMKAMP

Whether served as a starter, main dish or even dessert, raw or cooked, in the United States or Great Bri­tain, kale has en­joyed a me­te­oric rise in pop­u­lar­ity over the past few years. How does an in­gre­di­ent or a new recipe be­come so uni­ver­sally ad­mired? From the pro­ducer to the end user, find out about the sur­pris­ing jour­ney to pop­u­lar­ity of some cook­ing trends.

CHICAGO — Kale has had quite a run. Less than a decade ago, the leafy green veg­etable was used pri­mar­ily for dec­o­ra­tion on salad bars. Now kale, known for its health ben­e­fits, is so ubiq­ui­tous that even McDon­ald’s uses it in sal­ads. There are kale chips and kale crack­ers. And its ap­pear­ance on Mid­west­ern res­tau­rant menus has soared nearly 1,300 per­cent over the last four years, ac­cord­ing to Datassen­tial, a Chicago-based food data firm.

2. Za’atar, a Mid­dle Eastern spice blend, may not be as fa­mil­iar to many Amer­i­cans, but it plays a star­ring role in one of the sal­ads Star­bucks re­cently rolled out in Chicago as part of its new lunch menu. As Amer­i­cans in­creas­ingly de­mand ex­otic fla­vors, spices like za’atar are ex­pected to be­come more com­mon on menus. Iden­ti­fy­ing up-and-com­ing food trends is equal parts art and sci­ence, and it’s a process that some in the food in­dus­try pay a lot of at­ten­tion to. “The cronut went from noth­ing to Time mag­a­zine in no time; oth­ers peak and fall off,” said Sta­cie Sopinka, vice pres­i­dent of in­no­va­tion and prod­uct devel­op­ment at US Foods, a Rose­mont, Ill.-based food dis­trib­u­tor.

3. Food trends are in­flu­enced by a wide range of fac­tors, from fash­ion and pop cul­ture to health fads. They’re some­times cre­ated by chefs, of­ten in the world of fine din­ing, and then mim­icked and re-pur­posed by other restau­ra­teurs. Some­times, it’s a con­sul­tant or dis­trib­u­tor work­ing with a big brand to de­velop a prod­uct that fills menu holes for a food com­pany, whether it be a new bev­er­age or a salad top­ping. The trends are mon­i­tored by com­pa­nies that mea­sure, track and re­port on them, mak­ing it eas­ier for other com­pa­nies to jump on the band­wagon.


4. Datassen­tial, one of sev­eral com­pa­nies that track trends, calls that pat­tern the “menu adop­tion cy­cle.” Trends in the in­cep­tion phase of­ten start in fine-din­ing es­tab­lish­ments and in­de­pen­dent eth­nic restau­rants or mar­kets, where the food item is con­sid­ered unique in the way it’s pre­pared, pre­sented and tastes. Piri piri sauce, a spicy and tangy top­ping from Por­tu­gal, and tog­a­rashi, a Ja­panese spice blend, are in that phase now. Both meet con­sumers’ grow­ing de­mand for ex­otic spices, ac­cord­ing to Datassen­tial.

5. The adop­tion phase is when main­stream restau­rants catch on to the trend. Early adopters tend to be gas­trop­ubs, fast-ca­sual and in­de­pen­dent sit-down restau­rants, and spe­cialty or gourmet food stores.

6. In the pro­lif­er­a­tion phase, trends hit the main­stream and of­ten are ad­justed to have broad ap­peal. This means the up-and-com­ing in­gre­di­ent is in­cor­po­rated into burg­ers, pasta dishes and other menu items main­stream Amer­ica is likely to con­sume. Sriracha aioli, a spread that low­ers the spice in­ten­sity of the Thai pep­per sauce, is in the pro­lif­er­a­tion phase now. It’s of­ten served on sand­wiches and with french fries.

7. In the fi­nal phase, a food trend can be seen across the in­dus­try. Brands like Denny’s and Wal-Mart catch on, but so do con­ve­nience stores, schools and of­fice cafe­te­rias. As of late last year, fla­vors like maple and pesto were in this phase. Some will fade away, while oth­ers could hang on for years.


8. Not all trends fol­low this com­mon cy­cle. In fact, only about 30 to 40 per­cent of foods or

in­gre­di­ents in the in­cep­tion phase ever con­tinue on, ac­cord­ing to Datassen­tial. US Foods, which sup­plies restau­rants with ev­ery­thing from pro­duce to pre­pared meat, helps restau­rants get on board with the lat­est food trends, with a spe­cial em­pha­sis on the de­sires of mil­len­ni­als, the fastest grow­ing seg­ment of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion.


9. Be­cause chains have huge foot­prints and need to ap­peal to a wide range of peo­ple, they aren’t of­ten early adopters of trends. To help chains get in on the game, com­pa­nies of­ten take a trend, like smoke fla­vor­ing, and mix it with some­thing fa­mil­iar, like mocha or vanilla, for in­stance.

10. When try­ing to hook younger din­ers, many brands be­lieve vis­ual ap­peal tops all. Food, more than ever, has to be cam­era — or smart­phone — ready. En­ter rain­bow grilled cheese. But as large cor­po­ra­tions trans­late trends for mas­sive chains, chefs at prom­i­nent Chicago restau­rants have sim­pler and more old-fash­ioned meth­ods to de­velop them: cook­books and jour­nals.

11. Perry Hen­drix, chef de cui­sine at the West Loop Mediter­ranean eatery Avec, said he likes to change the menu fre­quently, but doesn’t put a dish on the menu un­til he’s “thought about it for a while and run it as a spe­cial on the menu.” “Peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes about how and what they eat have changed and will con­tinue to change. … So I do fo­cus on what is cur­rent, but ul­ti­mately it has to be some­thing I want to eat,” he said. “That has al­ways been the lit­mus test for me — do I want to eat it? And from there, I hope that other peo­ple do too.”

(Jim Wil­son/ The New York Times).

Bunches of kale at a gro­cery store.

The New York Times). (An­drew Scrivani/ (An­drew Scrivani/ The New York Times)

Tab­bouleh. A plate of Kale Brisket bar­ley soup with crispy kale.

(Evan Sung/The New York Times).

Roasted veg­etable risotto with nutty green kale, siz zled with gar­lic roasted parsnips pecorino Ro­mano. and sage leaves and deep and fin­ished with

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