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TrendWire, September 2011

The Food Channel Trendwire
September 2011 • Volume 25, Number 6 • http://www.foodchannel.com
IN THIS EDITION

Emerging Ethnic Cuisine: Here Comes Peruvian
Thai and Korean have had their day. Today the sign posts point toward Peru as the hot newcomer on the ethnic cuisine scene.



Earlier this month some of the biggest names in the culinary world jetted off to Lima for the Mistura food festival, a ten-day celebration that has become the most important food event in Latin America. The fest was expected to attract some 500,000 visitors. Among the attendees were such notable internationally-known chefs as Denmark’s René Redzepi, France’s Michel Bras, and America’s Dan Barber.

Spain’s Ferran Adria, among the globe’s leading authorities on haute cuisine has begun shooting a documentary film about the food scene in Peru.

And opening this past week in New York City, is La Mar, a new restaurant by Peru’s top celebrity chef, Gastón Acurio, a man devoted to introducing his country’s cuisine to the rest of the world. Acurio opened his first restaurant in Lima 17 years ago, and now has 33 restaurants in 14 cities across the globe.

La Mar will occupy the space at 11 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, vacated recently by Danny Meyer’s Tabla restaurant. Meyer, among the most respected restaurateurs in America, says he believes Peruvian food “will be huge.”

“Our mission is to bring fine Peruvian cuisine to the world, and New York is our biggest battle,” Acurio says. “There’s a valuable market for Japanese cuisine, French, Chinese—we want that for Peru.” As they say in the song, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

The flavors of Peru

People attending the Mistura festival or dining at one of Acurio’s Peruvian restaurants will encounter a cuisine that features a great deal of seafood, often prepared raw or cured. Its culinary creations are typically highly acidic with ingredients like Key lime juice and red onion. The fruity aji pepper, which brings a tingle to the lips, is another frequent component of the cuisine.

The potato is another prominent player in Peruvian cooking. Potatoes, in fact, have their origins in Peru. Peruvian-style ceviche often includes bits of yellow potato or yams. Mashed potatoes are served cold in Peruvian cooking, topped with fish or chicken salad in a dish called causa.

Another Peruvian favorite is rocoto relleno, which is a rocoto chili pepper usually stuffed with a mix of beef, pork, onion, garlic, butter, cream and pecans.

Huacatay, pronounced wah-kah-tye, or Peruvian black mint, is an herb often used in Peruvian cuisine. The fresh leaves are ground into a paste, which is then used to add flavor to recipes.

Lima, Peru’s capital, has become Latin America’s leading gastronomic destination, according to culinary experts, and a thriving industry of cooking schools has been created here. So we can expect to see grads of these culinary schools creating more Peruvian inspired dishes and opening more Peruvian restaurants in the coming years.

It looks like Peruvian may be the next Big Thing on the ethnic cooking scene. Mr. Acurio certainly hopes so. He reportedly has invested $5.5 million on his La Mar Cebicheria Peruana which opened its doors last week where Danny Meyer’s Tabla was unable to succeed. And Danny Meyer has a track record envied by just about every restaurateur in America.



Adventurous Dining in America (or the lack thereof)
You know that old saying about the squeaky wheel? It kind of applies to the sort of media coverage generated by new and emerging food trends in the U.S. (see previous story).

We hear and read about how American palates have become more sophisticated…how more of us are becoming vegetarians or vegans…how we’ve embraced the locavore movement and are going crazy for gourmet food trucks.

Well, maybe…maybe not. Two new studies—one by Technomic’s American Express Marketing Briefing, and another from Living Social —indicate that these and other trendy movements are far from the mainstream in the USA.

  • Of the respondents to the American Express survey, only 15% said they regularly seek new flavors, while 21% prefer to stick to favorite flavors.
  • The familiar, tried and true cuisines of Italy, Mexico and China still far outpace other ethnic choices such as Japanese, Greek, Thai, Spanish and French–although Moroccan and Mediterranean have moved into the top ten.
  • The first Dining Out survey conducted by the deal-making service Living Social found that nearly half of those surveyed (45%) call themselves “meat lovers.” Contrast that with only 18% describing themselves as “health nuts” and only 5% saying they were vegetarians or vegans.
  • More than one in three (35%) call themselves “experimental eaters,” while 25% describe themselves as “foodies,” and just 11% call themselves “locavores.”
  • We’ve certainly seen a lot in the media about the food truck trend, but only 4% of the Living Social survey respondents said they regularly eat at one.
Conclusion: While Americans may have become a bit more willing to try new cuisines or get on board with the latest “hot” trend in the past decade, generally we’re a pretty conservative lot when it comes to food. The newest trendy movements will still get plenty of attention in the media, but a relatively small minority will be willing to dip their toe (or bread) into it.



Food Industry Unites to Fight Waste
A food industry alliance has put together a three-year initiative to reduce the massive amounts of food that gets wasted every day in the U.S., as reported last week by The New York Times.

While many Americans have gotten on board with recycling paper, glass and aluminum cans—containers in which foods are packaged—a tremendous amount of perfectly edible food gets routinely tossed into the garbage.

The waste reduction effort is being spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, an alliance of food, beverage and packaging makers. The initiative aims to both reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills and increase the amount that goes to food banks for the poor. The Food Marketing Institute is helping to finance the program.

More than 30 million tons of food was dumped into landfills in 2009, making food the number one material found there, according to the EPA. That adds up to about 200 pounds a year for every person in the country. Only about 2 percent of food waste is composted today, while 62 percent of paper is recycled.

A USDA study conducted in 1997 concluded that about 10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just 20 percent of food that is wasted.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute headed up a leadership conference this summer to tackle the issue. Among the attendees were leaders from General Mills, Publix supermarkets, Waste Management waste removal company, and Feeding America, the nonprofit network of U.S. food banks.

A committee was formed that will begin to conduct a comprehensive survey of the sources and causes of food waste. Next, the initiative will identify public policies that could divert food that would typically wind up in landfills to food banks instead. The committee will also seek to pinpoint new technologies and industry best practices that will support efforts to reduce food waste.

One idea already proposed is locating food processors, retailers and restaurants in closer geographic proximity to reduce transport distances and make compost services a more viable option.

The initiative faces a daunting challenge, but the potential rewards are certainly great, from both a humanitarian and environmental standpoint.

Today some 50 million American households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.



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