Healthier fancier suburban

What will we eat in restaurants later this year? Adelaide chefs discuss emerging dining trends that are being driven by customers.

Restaurant customers are becoming increasingly fussy and demanding – and their desires are influencing how menus look, ahead of chefs pushing their own agenda. The era of escalated dietary concerns lay at the heart of this development; major function chefs say that up to eight guests at 10-seat tables will request specific meal requirements – vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, kosher, halal, allergies to shellfish, peanuts, garlic, onion and more. Kitchens are on notice to meet all these demands, often without prior warning, or face loud and publically-aired criticisms. “We must have options at our fingertips,” says Hamish Robertson, executive chef at Adelaide Oval, “because unhappy customers quickly get on social media. We have to please.”
Chefs are also feeling great pressure about how food is presented. Wow factor and creativity is essential, as most diners reach for their phone to take a photograph before raising their knife and fork. Adelaide Convention Centre executive chef Gavin Robertson says the generation of MasterChef viewers talk very critically of how the ingredients are plated, and are quick to dismiss dishes that don’t look spectacular. “If you’re not trending on Instagram, you slip out of public consciousness,” he says.
These observations were aired recently during an impromptu chef’s dinner at Windy Point Restaurant, an informal industry gathering to taste wagyu beef from Mayura Station with an emphasis on cuts that are more economical – shin, bavette (flank), rump cap. Watch for such unfamiliar cuts on a menu; with clever slow cooking, they provide greater flavour intensity than expensive cuts like fillet.
Another key trend is healthy eating which Paul Baker, chef at Botanic Gardens Restaurant, says should be taken much further in restaurant menus. He wants to feature less protein on the plate, achieving a more gentle balance in a delicious and nutritious meal. “More people are talking about eating healthy, but diners still expect a big plate of food when they eat at a restaurant. I want to challenge that perception – to make a delicious meal leaner, cleaner, lighter – but such change gets accepted slowly,” says Paul. “It won’t be embraced overnight.” 
Ben Sommariva, who recently commenced The General Kitchen and Wine Bar in McLaren Flat, is taking a bold departure from conventional menus by offering only plates of the day – derived from what comes fresh to his kitchen. “Many eateries suffer from offering too much choice, rather than focusing on what is best,” says Ben. “I can be flexible but I want customers to trust me. It’s my job to only serve delicious food.”

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