ACF Chefs name plants, CBD and zero-waste among top culinary trends for 2019

On January 10, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) released its findings from its annual What’s Hot survey, declaring that plant-based ingredients, including cannabis and CBD, and zero-waste cooking will be the hottest culinary trends of 2019.


The results of the annual survey are a barometer of U.S. culinary trends, forecasting food, beverage, and culinary concept trends for the year ahead. This year’s survey gathered the responses of approximately 650 professional chefs, all members of the American Culinary Federation, by asking them to identify food and beverage trends for the coming year. The chefs ranked 140 items — from all-day breakfast to zero-waste cooking — as “hot,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite.”

Seventy-seven percent of the chefs identified cannabis/CBD-infused drinks as the No. 1 trend. In addition, 76 percent of them tapped cannabis/CBD-infused food as the second most popular trend. Chefs who participated in the survey said infusing foods with the ingredients could create unique cuisine opportunities and potential new markets for experiential dining occasions.

Third on this year’s list of overall trends is zero-waste cooking, which calls for chefs and restaurateurs to reduce the amount of food waste created during the preparation of menu items to prevent it from ending up in landfills. It is also the second most popular concept trend. Chefs can achieve this through nose-to-tail cooking, incorporating “ugly” produce into menu items, and recycling or composting, among other things, the chefs in the survey said.

“Zero-waste cooking is a sign of the times,” says Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research. “Millennial and Gen Z customers in particular expect the restaurants they patronize to be more eco-friendly, so sustainability is high on their list. It’s also good for business. Not only is food waste reduction more cost effective, it creates brand loyalty and helps protect the planet. It’s a big win for everyone.”

Other trends that made this year’s list include:

  • Globally inspired breakfast foods, which more than 69 percent of the chefs said would be a top food trend
  • Hyper-local foods made from produce grown in restaurant gardens, or house-made items, were popular with 67 percent of chefs
  • Veggie-centric cuisine, a favorite with 67 percent of the survey’s participants
  • New cuts of beef, like oyster, Merlot, and Vegas strip steaks, which 67 percent of respondents hailed as a top choice
  • Plant-based sausages and burgers, which 64 percent of the chefs cited as a trend
  • Locally sourced meats and seafood, popular with more than 60 percent of the chefs polled, and
  • Veggie-carb substitutes, like zucchini noodles, riced cauliflower, and noodles made from beets, were popular with three out of five chefs

The chefs also tagged overnight oats, anise-flavored cocktails, and pretzels in desserts as trends that have come and gone.

Read the full report on the NRA’s website.