Chefs predict top menu trends of 2018

Doughnuts with non-traditional filling, ethnic-inspired kids' dishes, farm/estate-branded items and heritage-breed meats are just a menu items on trend for 2018, according to the National Restaurant Association's annual survey of 700 professional chefs. Waning trends include artisan cheeses, heirloom fruits and vegetables, and house-made charcuterie.

The top 20 picks by the 700 chefs, who are members of the American Culinary Federation, included: 

  • Non-traditional cuts of meat like oyster steak and Vegas strip streak
  • House-made condiments
  • Street food-inspired dishes (e.g. tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas)
  • Ethnic-inspired breakfast items 
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Healthful kids' meals
  • Vegetable-based carb substitutes, like cauliflower rice
  • Seldom-used herbs like chervil
  • Authentic ethnic cuisine
  • Ethnic spice like harissa and curry. 
  • Peruvian cuisine
  • House-made and artisan pickles
  • Heritage-breed meats
  • Thai-rolled ice cream
  • African flavors
  • Ethnic-inspired kids' dishes like sushi and tacos 
  • Doughnuts with less traditional fillings like Earl Grey cream and liqueur
  • Kids meal gourmet items
  • Ethnic condiments like sriracha and sambal
  • Ancient grains like spelt and amaranth

Other top trends included:

  • Hyper-local menu offerings that feature everything from restaurant garden produce to onsite-brewed beers. 
  • Chef-driven fast casual concepts
  • Natural ingredients/clean menus
  • Food waste reduction
  • Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine 
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Locally sourced meat and seafood
  • Locally sourced produce
  • Simplicity/back to basics
  • Farm/estate-branded items

"Chefs strive to strike the right balance between offering consumers what they want to eat now and guiding them toward new and exciting culinary frontiers," American Culinary Foundation National President Stafford T. DeCambra, said in the release. "ACF chefs dedicate countless hours to continuing education and professional development to stay at the forefront of culinary innovation, allowing them to respond to and redefine diners' expectations in an ever-changing foodservice landscape."

The NRA survey took place in October and November of this year. Chefs were asked to rate 161 items as either a hot trend, perennial favorite or "yesterday's news."

Complete survey result can be found at

Topics: Trends / Statistics

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