Food trends 2019 according to a little Los Angeles chef




2018 has been a year of healthy bowls, French macarons, and acai bowls in Los Angeles. Every other quick service restaurant that pops up serves bowls- Sweetgreen, Grabbagreen, Bibigo, and tons others I don't care to know. While they do offer some good healthy eats, and great technology for delivery, they feel.... well...soul-less to me.

I guess I prefer places like Urth Cafe and Le Pain Quotidien where yes, you will pay a few dollars more, but the dishes are crafted by real chefs, and menu items still have a sense of identity.

At LPQ you'll find French classics like Quiche Lorraine and Croque Monsieur, and you can still find a Harvest bowl there if you really want. And Urth cafe is still going strong with their amazing salads, sandwiches, soups, breads, and pastries, not giving into the bowl craze. 

The thing that makes those places endearing is that they recognize the trend for healthy bowls and vegan options but still have a personality. These other bowl places- "pick-your-base, pick-your-protein, pick-your-sauce" are so cookie-cutter and feel so fake and empty. Without a solid personality, they all come off the same- all trying to be "the next big Chipotle." It's such a bore as a foodie. I rather go to my friend's house and eat Kraft mac-n-cheese because it's made with more soul. 

But, enough of the old trends that will (I hope) dissolve quickly. The new trends are much more exciting. 

It's always so interesting reading the LA magazine on new restaurants in the city, as well as the trends that millennials are driving. There is a very clear divide now between restaurants that want to be Quick Service and all hooked up to tech, and other restaurants that are focused on experience.  Guests need to come to the dining room to eat and feel the restaurant's personality, an extension of the chef and owners. 

These trends are for both types, and possibly a new "player" entering the market. 


1. The rise of vegan Mexican food. 


Mexican food is already a superstar in Los Angeles. I mean it's estimated 30% of the population in LA is Mexican so we better have great Mexican food! But, it was the innovative chefs who realized that the food lends itself well to becoming vegan. Think, lentils, beans, mole, and homemade tortillas. Just visit Gracias Madre or Tocaya to find out. 

Mexican food is also making a statement nation wide (sorry, Trump!) According to ABC news
There are more Mexican restaurants than Italian bistros, Chinese kitchens, chicken rotisseries, or seafood shacks in the US. We’re talking about no less than 38,000 Mexican restaurants dispersed all across the American landscape (as of 2011). 
I'm excited to see Mexican food not only get its spotlight, but also get a makeover. The fresh produce we have here in California can elevate Mexican food in a way that makes it's greasy tacos and wet burritos look like distant cousins twice removed (although there is always a time and place for those).

2. More home cooks get the opportunity to deliver meals to the public. 


These may be the new players in the market. I know some of you may be very excited for this (you adventurers), and others of you may be very scared of this (clean freaks?). I am one of the excited ones. Of course I want to know and trust the chef I am buying tamales or pupusas from.

The reason this is huge is because a new bill passed in January 2019.  It allows immigrants and unregistered food entities to serve food, so long as they take the proper health safety classes and precautions. This was passed as a way to counteract Trump's hard stance on immigrants. It will provide opportunities for low-income immigrants and single mothers to make an additional income, without being harassed. This is a win!!

Along with this new bill, there are tons of apps that are helping chefs find more work apart from a full-time job. Chefs can now teach classes, and I expect in the future, there will be an app that will allow chefs to cook meals from their home and serve them to customers.

That means a lot of creative, great people can now do more of what they love and the customers can support them- kind of like starving artists I guess. But, you get to eat the painting!


3. More micro-ethnicities enter the food scene. 


It's about time. Los Angeles is already full of tons of different cuisines. On the Westside, you'll find great Korean, Persian, Italian, and Japanese food. But, LA is huge. These are the major players who have run in LA for decades. The smaller players like Ethiopian or Armenian food might show up for the party too. They are present but are not nearly as popular as the others. But, guests are getting more adventurous and as millennials return from their travels they are eager to globe-trot in their own backyard, through way of.... food.

4. Meals with 5-7 vegetables becomes the new normal. 


This is a good and healthy trend. It's about time we get our 5 to 9 a day, and even better in one meal. It seems people are eating less, or maybe I am just getting older. But, most of us are pretty sedentary much of the day and don't need as many calories. We probably don't need the 3 breakfast-lunch-dinner squares everyday. So, getting one good meal in a day becomes the easy and practical choice.

Customers are also becoming more educated and understanding the benefits of certain superfoods. They want to be able to add ginger for immunity or kale for detoxing. Plant-based meals are becoming more than just popular, but a new lifestyle for many. Vegan is in, even if the only meal they eat vegan is special K with almond milk in the morning.

5. European style lunches and speciality foods. 


This again is the fault of travel. As more millennials travel for work or pleasure, they are experiencing just how amazing the food is. Just stop in Italy or France and you will feel no guilt having a gelato or croissant every single day. You just can't find that European quality so easy in LA. And now we have Ladureé to remind us. (But you can get a very good French macaron there).

Spend some time in Europe and you will find that a typical workday lunch includes a 3-course meal and a glass of wine, and then espresso. Then, you come back to beautiful LA, find yourself eating In-n-out in the car, if you get a chance to eat at all.

Along with food preferences, work preferences are changing too. People either want to work more remotely from home, or if they do go to work, they want to have more time to enjoy a quality lunch. Catering services and businesses are picking up on that now and providing employees with more high quality in-office lunches that can be shared at a communal table. And many provide beer, too.

The demand for high-quality food is on! And thank goodness! Sadly, traveling out of the country at all, foreigners claim that they love our burgers and hot dogs....we gotta change our international reputation. As a chef I am very passionate about this, as you can see.

6. Secret Dinners


A big YES on this one. The first time I went to a secret dinner was last August while I was in Lisbon, Portugal. It was an intimate dinner for 6 by a Portuguese local. The experience blew me away. I wrote about the experience here.

More and more, food is becoming less about a nutritional transaction, and more about an experience. People want to be wowed and taken to another place. We eat out so often that it becomes normal. We need some variety (like in all things) and a secret dinner provides just that. It's even better when you are learning something new about another culture or tradition.

Thanks to Airbnb experiences this is becoming a reality. Many chefs have dreamed of creating intimate dinners and now it's in the process of happening. Chefs are becoming the new Airbnb hosts! Well, any artisan that can teach something can be an experience host.

I need my "kumbayah" moment to say that having intimate dinners can promote communities and people to come together over differences, and have the dialogues that can relieve biases that can take generations to overcome. This is a win for chefs and society as I see it :) Okay "kumbayah" moment done.

7. Breakfast to-go


People are getting so used to ordering everything online from toilet paper to dinner, that why not breakfast too? I mean I've heard some workplaces have cereal and milks ready for its employees but what if you want a fresh croissant or egg muffin? I don't know if this is a 2019 trend yet, but I see more people ordering breakfast, and spending less and less time in the kitchen.

I don't know if I like this trend. When working with dieticians they had told me that there was a correlation between the amount of time spent in the kitchen and health. The more time spent cooking in the kitchen, the greater your overall health, and the less, well the worse your health.

If it is a healthful breakfast like fruit smoothies or kale bowls I guess that's a good thing. So maybe the trend doesn't take those options into account.

8. Cooking classes


The demand for cooking classes is blowing up. And I have to say I am very excited to sign on with two services to provide cooking classes. But, when a friend asked me "Do people really want to learn to cook, to cook at home?" I had to be honest and say "no". It seems to be more of a status symbol to take a cooking class. A sign that you have leisure time and money to spend with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Will they actually do the recipes at home? Maybe once or twice but the majority of time is spent eating out or getting delivery.

In any case, I am still a chef happy to teach others cooking and am happy to see they are at least spending time with people they love and care about. If I can inspire some of them to cook or bake for their friends and family that would be great, but for the time we're together, I'll make it fun.

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These are the 2019 food trends in Los Angeles. It's always exciting to live (drive) in this city and see new restaurants open up or even close. There is always something brewing in this crazy place and it keeps things interesting. I hope to be one of those places (the opening ones) one day.


Thanks for visiting my blog. Comment below if you think they are true/false or undetermined. 

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