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Food trends set to take over the Maltese culinary world in 2018

Looking forward to 2018, these are the food trends that some local chefs believe will shape the way we eat in Malta over the coming year.

When eating out, diners are constantly on the look out for the newest trends. They are a fickle crowd who are not loyal to one (or several) restaurant. In a market where restaurants close down as quickly as they start up, keeping up with what consumers want is imperative. Many local chefs are always on the look out for latest trends and follow what is happening in the culinary trend-setting cities of the world, bringing the latest dishes to our shores. Here is what some local trend-setting chefs have to say.

Seasonal and sustainable produce

Consumers are becoming more concerned about where their food is coming from and how it has been grown or reared
Consumers are becoming more concerned about where their food is coming from and how it has been grown or reared
Perhaps the most prominent factor is that the consumer has become a lot more educated. The internet provides access to information which is leading the consumer to be more demanding in the products they are willing consume, with an emphasis on seasonal products.

Marvin Gauci, chef patron at perhaps Malta’s most innovative fine dining restaurant, Caviar and Bull said, “As the food industry continues to evolve, new trends emerge which determine what consumers should expect to eat in the coming years. Health conscious consumers are on the rise, and their dietary habits had an inevitable impact on the food industry and how it operates. This trend will continue to persist in 2018 and we expect to see more eatery outlets favouring small menus focused on fresh seasonal products.”

Tommy Diacono, the brains behind New York Best and Fat Louie’s also thinks that fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce is being placed at the forefront of eating habits. “2017 saw a string of intriguing pop up initiatives here and there too, most with the aim of using more local, seasonal and sustainable produce, we need MORE of these, many more.”

Rafel Sammut, owner of The Pulled Meat Company adds to this pointing out that consumers are more curious about where their food is coming from and beginning to appreciate restaurants that place more importance on sourcing seasonal, locally grown produce. “A more educated consumer means that they are more concerned about where their food is coming from. Working with local farmers, being involved in the diet and welfare of the pigs is something our clients continue to appreciate. Our farm to fork project ensures the quality consumers are coming to expect more and more.”

Health foods

Superfoods are set to take centre stage in 2018
Superfoods are set to take centre stage in 2018
James Bartolo, executive chef at Radisson Blu Resort and Spa, Golden Sands has seen a rise in requests for healthier products. “People have become much more aware and educated when it comes to their health and the food that they are consuming, we are expecting to see an increased demand for superfoods and health food in general.” While Gauci says that there is a growing interest towards natural ingredients, but with a colourful twist.

Jimmy Aquilina, pastry chef at Radisson Blu Resort and Spa, Golden Sands says that people are becoming a lot more aware of allergens in food and this needs to be taken into consideration when chefs are preparing menus. “Guests have become much more aware of allergies and allergens in food and we only expect this to increase in the 2018. As a result we need to continue to be creative whilst keeping these dietary requirements in mind.  

Vegetarian and vegan foods

More and more effort is being put into completely plant-based meals that are actually tasty
More and more effort is being put into completely plant-based meals that are actually tasty
Despite making his money from heavily meat-based dishes, Diacono believes that the future is in vegetables, “From a global stand point, the (food) trend-setting cities; San Francisco, London and New York, are most definitely leaning towards a more vegetable based diet, we're seeing an emergence of hot eateries that are completely dedicated to a vegetarian agenda, not to mention the many exciting veg dishes that keep popping up in already established menus, without being called 'vegetarian' per se. Enter lab-made, vegetable-based burgers that bleed - the future, not much of a choice as factory farming is burning the planet. Also there's a shift from beef to chicken burgers with names like Chicken fil-A, Momofuku and Shake Shack going all in on their chicken burger offerings.” This is echoed by Gauci’s thoughts on the matter where “vegetables are deemed the "new meat"  and it is expected that they will continue to reign next year. Indeed, 2018 is set to be a year of even more adventurous veggie and vegan cuisine.”

Reduction of waste

Nose-to-tail butchery ensures none of the animal is wasted and every part is used
Nose-to-tail butchery ensures none of the animal is wasted and every part is used
Finding a use for every part of the produce being purchased is something these chefs all seem to think will carry over to 2018.

Bartolo and Gauci both echo the same sentiment in that new ways of re-using parts of produce that normally get thrown away in food prep. “2018 is also expected to be the year of the root-to-stem cooking. As more and more restaurants get to grips with the problem of wastage, we are seeing a root to leaf approach emerging in many restaurant kitchens. In line with this approach, restaurants are trying to limit waste and create dishes that include parts of ingredients that we are generally not accustomed to find on our plates.” Gauci said.  

The notion of avoiding waste is repeated by Sammut, though he refers to serving of meat rather than fresh veg, “Among meat-serving restaurants there is a global trend to move back towards our grandparents’ ways and serving every part of the animal rather than just the prime cuts.

“This nose-to-tail attitude is a trend we expect to see plenty more of in 2018, and we plan to continue to work with local farmers where we have the pig slaughtered just for us and we take the whole animal, taking care to create recipes also using the off cuts that generally go to waste.”

Asian niche markets

More and more ramen is available on the market, in line with a Maltese fondness for Asian cuisine
More and more ramen is available on the market, in line with a Maltese fondness for Asian cuisine
Diacono sees an opening in the market for Asian eateries “Malta seems to be head over heels for ramen, so I expect to see more niche Asian outlets pop up soon – Korean BBQ, Vietnamese, perhaps even a Peruvian.

We seem to be moving towards becoming a small European city, lets hope they're somewhat genuine with the classics, and little experimental with the specials, why not?”

Trendy ingredients

Ruby chocolate, which is sweet with sour notes, is set to be on the trendy ingredient list for 2018
Ruby chocolate, which is sweet with sour notes, is set to be on the trendy ingredient list for 2018
There are always ingredients that are more fashionable at one point in time. Bartolo believes that the time of the gin in the spirits’ world is not over and set to rise even more throughout 2018.

In the world of sweets, Aquilina believes that pralines, made primarily with nuts and sugar, are on the rise and will show promise throughout the year. He believes that this will not just be the traditional type but also with a different variation of fillings, colours and flavours. Ruby chocolate, which is considered the fourth type of chocolate, is made from the ruby bean and has only been discovered and produced in 2017, so we are set to see a lot more of this type of chocolate which is sweet but also with sour notes.

 

Gauci believes that “2018 will definitely be an exciting year for the food industry especially on a local context where Malta’s capital city will be hosting the European Capital of Culture. The event will definitely entice the brains of local talent who will produce amazing dishes to highlight Malta’s rich food traditions and culture.” 

The chefs

There are plenty of chefs in Malta that act as trend-setters on the island. What they have in common is enormous passion, verging on obsession, when it comes to food. Not only do they spend their time creating in the kitchen but also on travelling the world to see what others are doing and to draw inspiration.

Marvin Gauci
Marvin Gauci
Marvin Gauci is chef patron at Caviar and Bull in St Julian’s, his second restaurant after the success of Tarragon in St Paul’s Bay. He has won numerous awards and has perhaps the most innovative fine dining restaurant on the island.

Tommy Diacono
Tommy Diacono
Tommy Diacono, together with his brother Nicky, are the brains behind New York Best and Fat Louie’s. Though New York Best is mostly fast-food, what they insist on is that everything is made from scratch to the very best standards on the market. They have won the internet for their incredible social media strategy, setting trends all over the island.

James Bartolo (L) and Jimmy Aquilina (R)
James Bartolo (L) and Jimmy Aquilina (R)
James Bartolo is the executive chef at Radisson Blu Resort and Spa, Golden Sands, while Jimmy Aquilina acts as his pastry chef. Meeting guests from all over the world they need to stay current, creating the very best dishes that rival culinary delights from trend-setting cities around the world.

Rafel Sammut
Rafel Sammut
Rafel Sammut owns a small company, The Pulled Meat Company, that started out selling pulled pork sandwiches from a stand at Tigne Point. He is setting trends in the way in which he sources his meats – local pork from local farmers, where he uses the entire pig and not just the prime cuts.

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