Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® brings together top culinary professionals across the United States. Each spring and summer, chefs and restaurateurs donate time, talent and passion at more than 35 Taste of the Nation events–all with the singular goal of ending childhood hunger in America. One hundred percent of ticket sales go to Share Our Strength, and since 1988 Taste of the Nation events alone have raised more than $82.5 million to support the cause.
With Food Channel’s focus on trends, we thought it would be fun to explore them through the lens of foods served at some of the larger Taste of the Nation and No Kid Hungry events in the past year.
Share and Share Alike. Family-style service in restaurants moves front-and-center this year, but small plates haven’t gone away. Consumers, especially Millennials (ages 16 to mid-30s) and Generation Text (up to age 15) and their parents, who’ve been impacted by the economy, are finding ways to share dining experiences with friends and family without breaking the bank. Taste of the Nation events are, by nature, small plate celebrations and highlight this trend.
Yin/Yang Blend. Opposites attract more than ever when it comes to food. That was evident at New York’s event last year. Brooklyn’s Justin Warner from Do Or Dine served up his famous fois gras and jelly doughnuts. While this may sound like dessert, Warner serves them as appetizers in his restaurant. At the same event, Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy wowed attendees with her savory take on cotton candy.
Taking it to the streets. Food trucks are still the rage, and most certainly were in 2012. Brand Smokehouse and The Southern Mac and Cheese Truck both supported Taste of the Nation—Chicago. It’s all about making food accessible and intersecting consumers and their busy lifestyles.
Savory delights. The draw of savory flavor is undeniable. At the New Haven, Conn. event, Chef Frank Porto of Barcelona Restaurant served a delightful cauliflower flan with crispy shallots and bacon. The trend was further echoed in Portland by the Allison Inn’s restaurant Jory with a seared Carlton Farms pork belly with truffle-apple slaw.
Fresh and flavorful. Fresh vegetables and seafood were notable at several Taste of the Nation events last year. This trend was front-and-center with a flavorful sunchoke soup with fennel pesto from The Hartford Club at Hartford’s celebration. Adam Sobel, who was with Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C. at the time, brought fresh to the forefront with his tuna tartar at the D.C. event. We’ll be watching for Sobel at this year’s Taste of the Nation—San Francisco in his new role as executive chef and partner at RN74.
Salads and salad-concept restaurants are also on the rise and will continue to grow in popularity. In L.A., restaurant Akasha served a fresh Thai beef salad, while in New York JoeDough’s really mixed it up with a six-food wedge salad sandwich from chef Joe Dobias.
New takes on old faves. In D.C., Chef Haldar Karoum of Proof gave classic deviled eggs a refresh with smoked fish, which added savory smoked flavor for balance. In New York, Chef Noah Bernamoff (Mile End Deli) served tasty bites of his corned beef tongue, while Portland’s Urban Farmer took the traditional Philly cheese steak to new heights by serving a deep-fried version. Mom’s banana pie never looked quite as good as it did at Taste of the Nation—Portland with Screen Door’s banana-toffee pie.
Ethnic abounds. From Chef Joanne Chang’s (Myers + Chang) Korean BBQ sloppy Joes in Boston to L.A.’s Sang Yoon’s (Lukshon) Mongolian lamb tartare with oolong tea panna cotta, and Black Market’s Korean Fried Chicken, chefs are bringing ethnic influence to the forefront.
Think global, eat local. As a trend, local ingredient sourcing is more prevalent than ever. At a No Kid Hungry dinner in his Maryland eatery Volt, Chef Bryan Voltaggio served Jonah crab with cucumber, cilantro, daikon and wild flowers, as well as lambcetta trail mix with smoked almonds, cocoa and raisins. Voltaggio has his own garden at Volt and works with local farmers to provide locally sourced fresh meats.
Keeping it simple. While No Kid Hungry culinary events most definitely skew upscale in terms of food served, that doesn’t mean overly contrived preparation. Iron Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Butter restaurant, known for her no-nonsense approach to food, served a simply prepared and delicious cured wild salmon with cucumber, radishes and lemon at a spring event to benefit No Kid Hungry in New York.
A Tasteful Year
Last year’s No Kid Hungry events demonstrate trends that bear watching this year: sweet and savory combinations; portable/mobile foods that can be shared; new takes on old favorites; fresh ingredients and local sourcing; and foods with simple, yet flavorful, preparation.
If all this talk of food has made you hungry, Taste of the Nation events are kicking into high gear and continue through most of June. For more information or to find an event near you, visit TasteOfTheNation.org.
Washington, D.C.-based chef Matt Hill got started with Taste of the Nation in 1999 and has participated every year since. “As chefs, we often are subject to so much excess food that it seems absurd that a child living in the US could go hungry. I feel that I have gained a lot of culinary perspective and privilege in this business and that I owe it to children to give back.”
Scott Drewno, The Source, Washington, DC: “Childhood hunger is a problem that can be solved, and it can be solved in our lifetime. It is an issue that affects us all on a variety of levels, and therefore should be an issue in which we all take part through education and donations.”
Lindsay Autry, Sundy House, Delray Beach, FL: “I think that ending childhood hunger is not only important but vital. Our children are the adults of tomorrow and the future leaders of our community. We all play a role in making sure that they are off to the right start with the most basic and often taken-for-granted necessity, food.”
Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco, CA: “As chefs, we are fortunate to have access to an abundance of food products and options to choose from daily to serve guests in our restaurants. I understand the fortunate position we are in but I am also well aware that this is not the case for many in our country, including the approximate 200,000 people in SF who struggle to feed themselves every day. We have got to do better collectively to alleviate this issue and I’m confident that together we can.”
Jody Adams, Rialto & TRADE, Boston, MA: “Children are our future. They need healthy food to learn, to grow, to build strong bodies. We need them to build a strong healthy future for our world.”
Elissa Narrow, Perennial Virant and Vie, Chicago, IL: “As someone who never had to worry about food or where my next meal was coming from, No Kid Hungry is important to me as a campaign that will hopefully ensure that every child (and adult) shares this same experience.”
Banner photo credit: Jennifer Wallace