Seriously? Avocado toast is all the rage? It’s good and sometimes really good, but c’mon it’s slightly burnt warm bread and a mushy vegetable. They are kidding, right? As a chef I shake my head and wonder about this particular food trend. But as a food and restaurant consultant, a sly smile crosses my face as I ponder what gave rise to this phenomenon. That question always piques my interest and makes me want to decipher the latest “hot thing” when it comes to food and beverages. Truth be told, the why and how of culinary trends fascinates me because it’s always traceable and trackable. They are a cultural reflection or expression in the form of the latest food trend. It doesn’t matter if a particular trend is my personal favorite or not, they get me to sit up straight and pay attention.
Do you wonder when and how to jump on the latest food bandwagon? Do you wonder why some take off and others fall flat on their face? Me too. Here’s my theory — avocado and toast are both familiar standbys – like a well-worn pair of jeans and comfortable sneakers. Combined, they become much more than the sum of their ingredients. They are elevated to a shared experience and creation of community by eating good ole comfort food. It’s food that we know. Food that we have a longstanding relationship with. Food that is filled with memories and represents the lingering hope of reuniting with loved ones all rolled into one dining experience. When familiar food is combined in a new way to become a trend, we get to share that very personal food history and new experience with others. We see our personal food history reflected in others and we connect through that shared experience. We all cherish a sense of community and shared values because it feels really good on several levels. That’s a much bigger deal than avocado and warm bread and a much more deeply rooted one as it becomes far more than the sums of its parts.
Therefore, at their core, many food trends are about community and shared values. But not all are based on nostalgia. Some are about a shared sense of discovery and being at the forefront. Others are about a shared sense of adventure. Some are about a shared sense of tradition with a twist because we are our own generation. And of course, some are about a shared sense of maintaining physical health and well-being.
When I step back at look at any food trend objectively, each is much less of a mystery and a whim than they appear to be at first glance. If I take a moment to stop and ask why or how rather than responding with my knee jerk reaction and personal opinion, I always find that there is more there. Understanding the cultural underpinnings of a particular trend will help you get ahead of the curve by communicating more effectively to your target audience. Let me know what you think and keep me posted as I’d love to hear what you come up with.
BTW, if you think I was hard on avocado toast, you should see what I had to say about cupcakes a few years ago.