Foodie Underground: Haute is Out, Fun is In

Column“Local” is the new “global” and fancy is put on the back burner for simpler, more laid back food.

It’s time to rejoice foodie undergroundists: fancy fusion with unintelligible names that make you feel self-conscious about your culinary prowess are out and simple, fun foods are back in.

You may have noticed the rise of hole-in-the-wall joints in your town, and the increasing use of farmers market produce in local menus, both out at restaurants and at home dinner parties, but our transition from haute cuisine to something a little more democratized is now official. According to the recent San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurant Awards, local is the new global and these days we’re much more apt to opt for fun and informal food than anything with à la in the title.

Some of that success might be equated to the down economy, but fortunately it looks like the trend is sticking no matter what the size of people’s pocket books.

But the expansion of this more relaxed gastro scene does not seem to have slowed down as the economy has bounced back; quite the reverse in fact. Casual, fun dining, with a genuine focus on good and exciting food, is simply too successful.

If the study holds true, this means serious changes to the dining industry. Fancy, Michelin 5 star will always stick around, but an increased obsession with local and low-key could mean great things for budding culinary crafts-men and women. To get the opinion of the new generation of chefs, The Wall Street Journal asked acclaimed 25-year-old chef Stevie Parle of Dock Kitchen in London what he thought.

“People no longer enjoy themselves very much in posh restaurants, where it feels like you are eating with your grandfather. One good trend is that people no longer associate an expensive meal with a posh one. People can come to my restaurant and spend £80 a head on good wine and the like but they don’t expect it to look super fancy or all the dishes being miniature and perfectly laid out on the plate.”

Of course 20-somethings aren’t dictating the future of cuisine, but the growth in food interest from the younger generation is certainly having an impact. This crowd, not necessarily raised in the pantries of fine dining establishments, has a genuine love for good food, and semi-broke 20-somethings are just the type to come up with the innovation and ingenuity that the food world is currently craving.

There are plenty of 20-something foodie blogs out there, proving that it is possible to enjoy, and create good food, without a traditional training. Ultimately, they represent the growing group of “real people that love real food.”

And that’s just what might change the food industry.

It’s empowering to know that food change could come from the ground up. No longer dictated by big restaurants, it’s the smaller, more local operations that are making a difference and the rest of the world is taking notice.

Trading haute cuisine for fun cuisine doesn’t have to mean that the quality will change. Fun food isn’t all hot dogs and cupcakes, it’s simply more about dishes that don’t take themselves to seriously. Food for the sake of food, where a salad is a salad – preferably grown on the restaurant roof top – and ordering a burrito can be done with 0% guilt because the taco truck uses all organic, locally sourced ingredients.

Look out for food that continues to push the envelope, and if you think being a food lover is equated with pretentiousness, think again, because as it turns out, the most popular stuff coming out of the food world might just be coming out of your own backyard.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

Images: Wootang01, Ed Yourdon, Anna Brones

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.