*Pictured: Pearl barley and crayfish risotto served with trout and broad beans

As economic conditions continue to harshen in South Africa, cost is one of the main drivers of forecasted food trends for 2019. On the other hand, there’s also a growing awareness of the provenance of food: where it comes from, how it was produced, as well as its seasonality.

“How can we be smarter about our food – knowing where it comes from and how it was farmed – and smarter with our money?” asks Chef James Diack of Coobs, who recently showcased what we can expect to see on menus next year with a five-course lunch demonstrating these sustainable trends on the plate.

“Provenance has always been at the core of my passion, and my business,” says James, whose family-owned Brightside Farm supplies his four restaurants (Coobs, Il Contadino, La Stalla, Douglas + Hale) with sustainable produce. “It’s what has created a business that sustains almost 120 jobs, and it delivers incredible meals to hundreds of customers every day. Knowing where the food and wine comes from that I serve in my restaurant is paramount – and it’s definitely becoming more and more prominent in today’s society.”

“But what’s also prominent for both consumers and restaurateurs alike is the spiralling cost of food,” James continues. “The impact of the global economic crisis has pushed families to the bread-line and caused many restaurants to go out of business. This amalgamation of rising costs and genuine concern for the source of food will see a combination of trends emerging in 2019.”

Read below for the sustainable trends that James is forecasting for next year:

Thinly-sliced pork, pickled in white wine, crumbed and deep-fried served on charcoal brioche with kimchi and wasabi mayo

Katsu Pork

Katsu is a Japanese term that refer to various, often cheaper, cuts of meat that are pounded thin and breadcrumbed before cooking. The meat used tends to be pork, and this throws the spotlight on the treatment of pigs. Most are intensively reared, given antibiotics and live in confined conditions before slaughter, so consumers are starting to pay attention to the source of meat, where it was farmed and what it was fed.

Inland Fish

Sourcing fish from inland and responsibly-farmed sources locally is not only more sustainable, but can also be more cost-effective when used instead of imported fish. For example, using local fresh-water farmed trout to replace imported Scottish or Norwegian salmon means less import and less transport costs. The local trout holds all the qualities of the imported salmon, but it’s fresher, can be sourced more frequently and it works out at a quarter of the cost. Aquaculture has even made advances to grow freshwater crayfish, with a limited number of Red claw freshwater crayfish (native to Australia) produced in small community initiatives in Mpumalanga.

Carrot arancini served with roasted carrots, hummus and a chervil pesto

Alternative Grains

There’s been an increase in wheat and gluten-related allergies around the world, which sees chefs seeking out alternative grains to replace traditional wheat products. Grains such as pearl barley, quinoa and split oats are filling the gap, and are great for pasta-type dishes, salads and even for making crumbs.

Root to Tip

A year ago, a kilogram of lemons cost about R35. Now, you’re looking at over R100 per kilo. Chefs can’t afford to waste a thing, and so the trend of root to tip sees the kitchen using the whole plant, which reduces costs as well as food waste. Citrus fruits can be used for zest as well as juice; carrot tops can be baked for a garnish or ground into a green pesto. Think out the box to find ways in which to use the whole fruit or vegetable – and that goes for meat as well.

Tamarind and sumac marinated sirloin (150g) served with roasted vegetables, truffle chips, roasted bone marrow and a brandy jus

Simple Dish at a Simple Price

The growing popularity of food boxes – the delivery of either pre-made meals or portioned ingredients for preparation at home – is one of the biggest threats to midweek dining in the US, Europe, Australia and even South Africa right now. Food boxes are seen as a cost-effective alternative to eating complicated dishes out, and restaurants are now offering a simplified, well-priced ‘everyday’ meal on their menus. “A great bowl of pasta or steak and chips, and a quality glass of wine is accessible when well-priced,” says Chef James Diack. “And it doesn’t come out of a box.”

Vegetables for Dessert

The seasonality of fruit together with the trend of sweet and sour flavour combinations is pushing vegetables back onto the dessert menu.  Beetroot, for example, become beautifully sweet once cooked down and a versatile base for desserts.

Coravin Wine

Consumers want to drink and experience great wine, but don’t necessarily want to drink the whole bottle, whether it’s because of cost or capacity. The Coravin wine preservation system pours wine without removing the cork, preserving the wine for up to 3 months, which allows restaurants to offer expensive and unusual wines by the glass.

White chocolate and fresh cherry mousse served with beetroot and yoghurt splash, dark rum jelly, stone fruit sponge, beetroot chips, walnut tuille and a beetroot ice cream

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