What’s Hot, What’s Not, and Who Knows?

To Foodies With Love: The Chefs (PART 1)

To trend or not to trend, that is the question. And Island chefs have widely diverging views not only on particular food trends, but the concept itself.

Even with differing opinions on the topic of trends, a commonality exists when it comes to taking pride and serving good, honest food without too much fuss.

 Restaurants Canada’s eighth annual Canadian Chef Survey                  predicts what’s hot for 2017
 Craft beer/microbrews
 Smoked food
 Charcuterie/house-cured meats
 Sous vide
 Locally sourced foods (Locavore)
 Gluten-free/allergy conscious food
 Sustainable seafood
 International condiments (e.g. Sriracha, raita/raitha, chimichurri, soy sauce, sambal)
 Fusion condiments (e.g. Sriracha ketchup, kimchi mayo)

Some of the trends reported in Restaurant Canada’s latest survey  make the local list according to our informal survey of Island chefs.


Murphy Hospitality Group’s culinary operations manager

Loo shared what he’s been seeing and hearing from his chefs, in terms of up-and-coming ‘trends’ in PEI, including some continuing themes and some comeback queens.

“Tapas continue to make strides forward and people are eating more ‘in-between’ meals, meaning not full dinner portions but bigger than appetizers ($10-15 range).”

Loo sees beef continuing to dominate the East Coast as a protein of choice. “Chefs are tasked with finding ways to incorporate new cuts and smaller variations of full meals.”

Some international themes are ongoing. “Tacos are not up-and-coming, yet they continue to remain extremely popular in the summertime especially,” he said. “Asian influence of menus continues to rise and chefs are finding ways to better incorporate spices and sauces that reflect Asian culture.”

Continuing education is always on the menu. “Chefs and restaurateurs continue to focus innovation on ways to better educate staff and the guest in their dining experience. Food service is becoming more about a memorable experience than solely about good food.”

Quality of life is also a focus of the younger workforce, thus finding ways to meet the needs of the kitchen crew and strike a healthy work-life balance is important to recruitment and retention.
Finally, locally sourcing and food security are topics that continue to keep foodservice professionals up at night. “So tailoring menus to allow for that is becoming a growing occurrence in the industry.”


Owner and Chef, My Plum, My Duck

Forrester Wendt, the chef behind Charlottetown’s soon-to-be-open vegan resto, My Plum, My Duck, said dietary practices such as veganism are on the rise.

She said Statistics Canada has found that 30% of Canadians consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.

One example of vegan cuisine making its way into the Island’s diet is seaweed. For an Island surrounded by ocean it’s the one ingredient we haven’t seen a lot of unless it’s in sushi. “Seaweed is the new kale,” Forrester Wendt said.” It’s still trending up on PEI.” She said seaweed is versatile and can substitute for some traditionally animal-based products.

“Last summer I deep fried a lot of kombu which goes well as a snack with beer. You can even make a KLT: deep-fried kombu, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.”

Less familiar proteins are also making their way onto Island menus. She said Islanders can expect to see a wider variety of meat and seafood on the menu, particular, more duck, goat, and seafood traditions from the past like sardines

Fermenting is also on the upswing; it’s not just for cabbage anymore. Forrester Wendt’s been fermenting and preserving everything from carrots to turnip.

And she said sustainability and farm-to-table will continue to be popular; they are not just flashes in the pan. The table has turned and this is a philosophy that consumers have fully embraced


Co-owner and Chef, FireWorks at The Inn at Bay Fortune

One of the Island’s great food ambassadors, Chef Michael Smith is on the side that believes trends are passing fancies.

“As a mature food destination, many of our chefs have found the confidence to return to our roots and embrace the elements that make us so unique,” he said. “The Island is a chef’s paradise. We have access to incredible, locally-produced ingredients and a willing dining public. We don’t need to chase trends, we just need to be proud of our basics!”


Chef, The Table Culinary Studio

MacKinnon of The Table in New London agrees that local is still a big component and isn’t going anywhere.

“Chefs are more and more focussed on the bounty we have here on PEI.”

He sees the Island creating its own trends through this rustic home-grown philosophy rather than adopting movements from other places wholesale.

“PEI is always a little behind when it comes to trends, but this isn’t a bad thing, it gives us a chance to take a look at how these things work in other places. It gives us an outsider’s perspective.”
International cuisines continue to have an influence on Island cuisine with more coming in. The large influx of new Canadians from China and Southeast Asia is having an impact.
Commensality has always been a part of eating at home whether with friends or family and is now becoming part of the fabric of eating out.

“Family or boutique style dining is more and more popular,” he said. “We have a 14-seat table at The Table. Everything is served on platters. When you have a table full of food, and some is within reach but other dishes are not, it requires you to ask strangers for the potatoes. You have to get into the conversation.

“We are all about creating a ‘new’ nostalgia. I can’t give someone their first piece of apple pie, but I can give them something they’ve had before for the first time.”


Chef, Mavor’s Restaurant

Stewart said she’s always tracked trends for work but that’s not how she likes to work herself. She likes to explore her own route such as using aqua faba (the viscous water in which chickpeas or other legumes have been cooked) or using unexpected ingredients like Ovaltine as a flavouring.

That being said there are trends she’s identified as more than just fashionable; some have made a lasting impact on how Islanders eat.

She said legumes or pulses are a trend from last year that will continue, as is eating healthy and natural foods.

One trend she would like to see end is that of celebrity chefs. She said the food should be at the forefront not the personality of the chef.

What she would like to see more of is cooking that isn’t flashy or complicated.

“I just want to use reasonably-priced basic ingredients and create something from that by applying love without gouging people.”


About Rod Weatherbie

Rod Weatherbie is a writer working in the hospitality industry. He spent a number of years in Toronto as a member of the financial press before returning to PEI. Rod has published one piece of short fiction, one book of poetry, and has had work published in Red Shift, the Antigonish Review, Mitre, and the Toronto Quarterly. He has also recently co-produced, co-directed, and acted in a stage production of old television shows.

He also likes writing about food. Go figure.

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