Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Attention, Webster: Hyper-local's the word

Pencil a new term into the restaurant glossary: Hyper-local, which has nothing to do with a customer who lives really, really close.

That’s the label the National Restaurant Association has given the newest wrinkle in local and sustainable sourcing. The group explained that the phrase covers ingredients that don’t have to be trucked to the restaurant, even from nearby farms.

Rather, these are items that originated on the premises—produce grown in a rooftop or chef’s garden (or the new manifestation, interior “green walls” of living plants), or meats that were trimmed from whole carcasses on site.

Presumably it’d also cover fish grown in the restaurant’s aquarium, or, more probably, beverages that are made right there.

If the phenomenon sounds like something reserved for New Yorkers who dress only in black, consider that a shift to hyper-locals is expected to be one of the most noticeable trends in restaurants next year. Indeed, it was projected in an NRA-backed survey of chefs to be the fifth most powerful influence on menus in 2011.

Among the few forces scored higher by the 1,500 respondents in whites were locally sourced meats and seafood, which topped the list, and locally grown produce, at Number Two. Sustainability considerations was Number Three.

The annual survey is the third in a row to put the local/sustainable movement at the top of the trend rankings.

In short, local sourcing and its fellow traveler, sustainably grown foods, are not going away. They’re less a trend than a shift that will be with us for some time.

Remember the days when “imported” was the mega-trend?

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