Five 2010 trends to watch: we ask Jamie Kennedy, Anthony Walsh, David Lee and other chefs what to look for in the coming year

Five 2010 trends to watch: we ask Jamie Kennedy, Anthony Walsh, David Lee and other chefs what to look for in the coming year

Bespoke bread from Marc Thuet (Photo by Renée Suen) 

It’s no secret that 2009 was rough for restaurants—“It’s a year a lot of restaurateurs are happy to see go,” says C5’s Ted Corrado—but with the new year almost a month old, optimism is back on the table. We talked to some of the city’s top chefs about five culinary trends for the coming year.

1. Less Is More
Small, chef-run restaurants that are down-to-earth in both atmosphere and culinary style. Chef Jamie Kennedy, who’s focusing on the Gilead Bistro, a decidedly more casual restaurant than the Wine Bar he sold last fall, anticipates more “chef-driven” spots like J.P. Challet’s Ici Bistro and Grant van Gameren’s Black Hoof. Claudio Aprile, who’s working on his second restaurant, Origin, agrees: “I’m hoping that we see a lot more restaurants that are open kitchen, 30 seats, three line cooks.”

2. Ethnic Cuisine Goes Green
After a great year in Ontario produce, the eat-local community is already buzzing about spring’s bounty. New demand is cropping up, says Wine Bar chef Scott Vivian: “Indian and Hispanic chefs are becoming interested in the local movement, like chef Carlos Fuenmayor of Sabrosito.” Tawfik Shehata of Vertical recalls last summer’s astral carrot harvest, noting that “one grower caused a carrot craze when he debuted his Indian crop last spring. He couldn’t pull them out of the ground fast enough.”

3. Tasting Menus Are So 2009
When the tables turned on formal fine dining, extravagant tasting menus became as shameful as toting a pink Holts bag on Bloor. Anthony Walsh, a chef who has put together his share of complex menu progressions at Canoe, confirms that “the bloom is definitely off the tasting menu rose.” Though the Oliver and Bonacini buff still serves them, he feels the pricey and elaborate option—with endless interruptions and complex explanations—“can really turn people off.” Instead they’re opting for less involved prix fixe menus, which have been ubiquitous these days.

4. Charcuterie, the Sequel
Now in its fifth year, the charcuterie craze shows little sign of fading. “A lot of chefs are heading in the charcuterie direction,” says David Lee of Nota Bene, who went on a charcuterie crawl last week.  What’s new this year is that options will extend beyond the ever-popular pig platter. Shehata says, “I think lamb is going to be the new pork.” He makes lamb prosciutto and lamb bacon that are cured and smoked over hickory.

5. Bespoke Bread
The rage for all things artisanal will continue apace. Such in-house experts as sommeliers and pastry chefs are increasingly joined by bar hands who make their own bitters, butchers who cure their own meat and bakers who grow their own yeast. Anthony Walsh will debut a DIY bread program led by master baker David Wilson, who earned his bread-making cred alongside dough boy Marc Thuet. “Everybody is doing their own bread,” says Walsh. “It’s such an important part of what we do every day.” At least three newish spots—Union, Buca and Ici Bistro—have in-house bakers.

• Correction: an earlier version of this blog post erroneously suggested that chef Joshna Maharaj has recently become interested in the local movement; she has supported the local food movement in Toronto for many years. It also stated that she works at the C5 portion of the ROM; she works at Food Studio.