Chef Michael Bennett tells what we should expect for the future of our Food Business — The Social Changes in Dining Habits
When you think about it, we will never dine again like we did a decade ago.
With the generational gap between the 70’s counter culture people – the Boomers – that demanded uber-chic foods from their restaurants in the 1980’s – to today’s diners – the Y-generation that has lived through multiple economic down-turns and a social revolution over the past two decades; our current dining clientele have no idea what opulent dining should be.
PRICE POINT, INSTANT SERVICE THE GOAL
The dining populace today is looking for dwindling prices and bold flavors. They are not looking for superior products that are well thought-out in rich visual appeal; it has to be instantaneous and scrumptious without drawn-out service attributes. The dining public that insisted on a 2½ hour dining experience is long gone. Those people are now investing their disposable income on supporting their aging parents, instead of treating themselves to an evening of culinary bliss.
There is one avenue in culinary field that is growing in affluence and totality: the gourmet food market segment. Companies such as Wild Oats, Whole Foods and The Fresh Market continue to grow, and are more popular today than anyone could have imagined in the beginning of the 1990s.
It’s the result of the Boomers treating themselves to superlative foods at home, rather than going out for fine dining. Their teen-age kids are being brought up expecting that this the norm. This procurement practice learned before they leave to go to college seems like it will transverse to the next generation unlike, fine dining of the 1980’s.
ARE THEY THE FUTURE?
Gourmet markets flaunting the highest quality cheeses from Europe, olive oils from around the Mediterranean, prime-aged meats and fresh locally harvested seafood abound in and around South Florida. Home-grown gourmet markets budded from long-standing family-owned local food markets. These markets over the decades saw that as their clientele gained esteem through their occupations, so did their need to live prodigiously at home. Coupled with the lack of formal dining out of the home and the need to still treat oneself, metropolitan gourmet markets flourish.
Look across the Southern United States, where retiring Boomers are now settling for a quite retirement from the rat race and you can see there is an increasing demand for gourmet and time-saving prepared food markets. Looking across Florida, Arizona and Texas, gourmet markets like: Epicure, Norman Brother’s, Gardener’s (all in Miami), Fernanda’s and Doris markets in Fort Lauderdale and Carmine’s of Palm Beach, Rice Epicurean and Eatzies in Houston and Dallas, Central Market in San Antonio, Texas, AJ’s fine foods in Phoenix, have been blossoming in popularity and scope.
I can remember going shopping downtown to the only place in Fort Lauderdale that sells deCecco pasta, Fernando’s, with my grandmother in the 1970’s. This is the way it starts for generational cooking at home. The Boomers have already indoctrinated their college aged kids to expect these markets to fulfill their needs for their future.
BOOMERS RETIRE, BUT THEIR TASTES DON’T
It has been a long journey for the family markets but, this segment is expanding faster than most other segment of the food service spectrum.
“We have seen the growth in sales rise ever since the Boomers started to retire”, a gourmet store manager told me. In the Tampa and Sarasota area of the Florida’s West Coast, there is up and coming places like Morton’s that have broken away from the mom and pop attitude to roasted-in-house gourmet coffee beans, supply in-house prepared entire Home Meal Replacements, dedicate a major part of the floor space to European cheeses and charcuteire that until recently unattainable in most of the United States.
A NEW SOCIAL SCENE
A newly unexpected social scene for Boomers occur at these gourmet markets. Not only do people linger long at their favorite markets, purchasing specialty foods for dinner, shopping has become a see-and-be-seen sport. It has become universal rationale to go to your favorite gourmet market to spend the afternoon socializing with friends. Today’s Boomer social customs have changed from the “Me generation” to the “We generation”.
The Internet and these markets are now the new siscos for the We Generation. We all want to be interconnected with others, it’s a social thing. The We society as a whole went through many stages.
First it was TV, then cable and i’s broadcasting of specific aspects of the social realm. Cable news brought us together as a country. Thanks to CNN, we know as much of what is happening in California and New York as around the city in which we live. MTV quickly spread to young Americans the urban sounds that they never would have heard locally in their own rural part of the country.
The rapid spread of cable’s cooking shows have led us to become food voyeurs, watching shows and their hosts that we would have previously would only have known from reading their cookbooks. No one has to look far for lessons on any food subject.
Now, the Internet has become the No. 1 outlet for information and our new interconnect-ability.
In the digital world, everyone can be a star as long as they can reach a dedicated viewership. Our Boomer community feels this immediacy brings more inter-connectivity on a personal basis while scanning their favorite sites. By opting-in to blogs and YouTube videos specific to our own wants, the social inter-connection is growing stronger. We can choose to interact with other cooks online, or watch favorites from our computers now sitting on our kitchen counters.
It’s a new age in dining – and where will the next generation get its food information? Time will tell.
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Chef Michael Bennett is chef at the Bimini Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is the author of In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks, Underneath a Cloudless Sky and Culture of Cuisine.
Summer cookbooks are fanciful creatures — high on whimsy and shamelessly devoted to making a good life better. For some that means lingering in the farmers markets or gardening with the kids. For others it’s indulging in some usually forbidden pleasures —the icy sweet, the charred and fishy. And for some, it means crossing oceans to sample less familiar fare — without ever leaving the porch. There’s something for everyone, but all go just fine with bare toes and a sun hat.
The Quick-Fix Way to Turn Everyday Food into Exceptional Fare, With 400 Recipes
by Lucy Vaserfirer
Paperback, 320 pages
Ah, the glow of the charcoal! the ring of the tongs! The romance of grilling may center around a Weber kettle, but some of its most powerful secrets lie in a zip-top bag. Marinades offers page after page of simple, devastatingly effective baths — and just in case you’re not so sure what to do with your Madeira-Thyme Marinade once you’ve got it — afterward points you in the direction of some nice veal rib chops or other appropriate cuts. Lucy Vaserfirer knows that for all the fire and flair at the end, the success of a grilling adventure often starts hours before, with the silent, humble art of wet baths and dry rubs. Chops and medallions, steaks and kebabs — there’s hardly a cut of protein that doesn’t benefit from a good long soak in an emphatically-seasoned liquid. Five minutes of forethought while you’re cleaning up from lunch is all it takes. After that, deliciousness is in the bag. Meanwhile, you can go for a bit of a soak yourself.
All Natural SURF Cuisine
A Study in Seafood Cookery
by Michael Bennett
Paperback, 186 pages
You will love how the Chef’s narratives are paired up with the recipes. It was like reading a recipe guide and journal from this chef on his journey through cooking seafood. You will also like the idea that the book is broken up into segments like; spices, salads, sauces and entrees. So, besides having 100 or more recipes squeezed into 188 pages, you actually get a multiple of at least 3 times that much if you interchange the sub-recipes into the entree section. This book is of course featuring healthy cooking of Seafood. Since it is a tropical seafood natural cooking cookbook you expect that but, it is also a GLUTEN FREE cookbook. The chef explains that the recipes are mostly grilled so the need for adding wheat flour is not needed. Chef Michael Bennett goes out of his way to create sauces that are as healthy as they are exotic – to pair with the grilled seafood. Once you investigate the recipes you’ll see that this book might be your favorite cookbook for your weekend family dinners.
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook
100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden
by Brent Ridge, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Sandy Gluck
Hardcover, 275 pages
The “lifestyle company” Beekman 1802 celebrates the better bits of farm life (fresh eggs and rustic antiques, not manure spreaders and drought). This third Beekman cookbook outing is suffused with nostalgic, agrarian spirit, from its seed-packet endpapers to its fluted-china still lifes. Even if you can’t be bothered to jot down “Fall Recipes From Your Family” into the quaintly lined journal pages provided, the recipes here go a step beyond your average vegetable ode and are worth exploring: green beans with frizzled scallions and ginger, butternut squash crostini with raisins and brown butter. It’s not vegetarian and heirloom vegetables are not actually required — for Beekman 1802 is all about the joys of the harvest, minus the backache from weeding and the gritty fingernails. To be used in a spirit of indolence.
Vegetarian for a New Generation
Seasonal Vegetable Dishes for Vegetarians, Vegans, and the Rest of Us
by Liana Krissoff
Paperback, 272 pages
This third offering in Krissoff’s “New Generation” series may look just like any other vegetable book, but don’t be fooled! Once you get past the bland title and tiny print, there are some surprising, wickedly effective flavor combinations just waiting to be discovered. Brussels sprouts waltz through a tamarind-ginger dressing; a tamari-butter glaze clings to potato wedges. Even the kale chip, which everyone agrees has overstayed its welcome, gets an alluring makeover in coconut. Not every recipe shines with newness — there are fine old friends like miso eggplant and butternut squash soup — but Kassoff never lets comfort devolve into boredom.
The Better Bean Cookbook
More than 160 Modern Recipes for Beans, Chickpeas, and Lentils to Tempt Meat-eaters and Vegetarians Alike
by Jenny Chandler
Hardcover, 272 pages
Protein-filled, healthy beans — everybody wants to love them, but why do they make it so difficult? Even perfectly cooked beans can exhaust your appetite long before you get to the bottom of the bowl, for the blandness of a bean calls for aggressive seasoning to blast open its beige palette. Here at last is a bean book that’s more tempting than earnest, brimming with cosmopolitan flavors and vivid photography. Forget about your hippie-era three-bean dip and boiled lentils — in these pages, dosas and tagines, falafels and burritos rub shoulders. Some are generously herbed, some are richly spiced, but all deliver novelistic detail on the plate compared to the leguminous one-liners of years past. The right-minded should be warned that this is no vegan — or even vegetarian — compendium. Decadent beanery is afoot in these pages; proceed accordingly.
Simple Thai Food
Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen
by Leela Punyaratabandhu
Hardcover, 227 pages
I have generally found “Quick,” “Easy,” and “Simple” to be disingenuous labels when it comes to Thai cookbooks. They might be actually easy, but then they’re likely more Chinese than Thai. Or they’re not actually easy at all — just easy compared to the hours you’d spend pounding spice pastes in the old country, with no electricity or running water. But Punyaratabandhu seems to pull it off, coming up with recipes that are weeknight-doable yet electric with ingredients you can just about find if you try hard (dried shrimp, kaffir lime leaf, palm sugar). Shortcuts or not, they’re desperately delicious. And as to those curry pastes? Store-bought is fine, according to the author. But diehard readers will still find complete recipes for each in the back of the book. In other words, you can have it both ways.
We get dozens of cookbooks each week at SAVEUR magzine, and every month we share our favorite new releases—books that, through one avenue of greatness or another, have earned a place on our over-stuffed shelves. This time, those books that piqued our interest came from all over the world—the Middle East, Myanmar, Paris, the American South—and covered a variety of recipes, from Gluten Free cooking to Palestinian mezze.
OLIVES, LEMONS & ZA’ATAR: THE BEST MIDDLE EASTERN HOME COOKING
by Rawia Bishara
I have long been a fan of Tanoreen, Rawia Bishara’s Palestinian restaurant tucked away in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where her inventive mezze, like fried Brussels sprouts drizzled with fresh tahini and pomegranate seeds and eggplant napoleons slathered in babaganoush cream, make the forty-five minute trek from Manhattan well worthwhile. So, I was thrilled when I finally got my hands on her cookbook, and the secrets behind the delectable dishes I’d eaten at her restaurant. The recipes for my favorites turned out to be shockingly easy, 5-ingredient affairs, and as I flipped through the pages of mouthwatering photographs and lovely asides about local culinary folklore and her own food memories, I also discovered simplified recipes for many Palestinian classics. For example, her recipe for Musakhan, a complicated festival dish of sumac-rubbed roast chicken served on rounds of fresh-baked taboon bread, is transformed from weekend project to weeknight meal with a simple pizza-like flatbread recipe and smart substitutions like quick sautéed boneless chicken breast. Bishara’s modern, approachable take on classic Palestinian food makes Olives, Lemons, & Za’atar a book I’m glad to have on my shelf as a source for doable, exciting dishes and tried and true favorites that I will be reaching for again and again. —Felicia Campbell
Available February 13 from Kyle Books; $29.95.
IN THE LAND OF MISFITS, PIRATES AND COOKS
by Chef Michael Bennett
It is akin to cooking and eating with a conscience. Chef Michael Bennett carefully weaves the art of cooking with the science of achieving a healthy body and sane mind. He introduced to his readers an approach in eating that has been inspired by the wisdom of the ages.
As a person who has been making the transition toward a more natural diet, I was naturally drawn to this book. Overall, I would say that it was a helpful book at inspiring readers to eat healthier. I liked the personal introduction that discussed the author’s motivation for writing the book as well. It set the tone of a book as a regular guy who has learned things about Caribbean tropically-inspired healthy cooking while discussing what it is like to travel and work throughout the Caribbean. After reading so many books from “experts”, this was a nice little break. All the Gluten Free recipes like —spiced pecans, crab beignets, silky onion dip, and my favorite, bacon and Parmesan gougères—transformed my kitchen table into a fruit laden maple Butcher’s block sideboard.
The book is just as interesting reading as it is interacting. The author has published this book with interactive QR code links that connect your directly to the Internet’s database of cookery terms and grocery websites where you can find the more rare food novelties.
This book will take you on a 1000 mile journey across the Caribbean in an innovative technological and healthy way.— FoodBrats.com
Available from FoodBrats.com; $35.95
DOWN SOUTH: BOURBON, PORK, GULF SHRIMP & SECOND HELPINGS OF EVERYTHING
by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe
I grew up in the South, and on cold, blustery days in New York, I long for it. The Gulf Coast holds particular charms for me, and whenever I go to New Orleans a visit to one of Donald Link’s restaurants is a must. So when Link’s latest cookbook, Down South, arrived, I grabbed it off the shelf and headed to the liquor store, inviting a few friends over along the way. Oftentimes, cocktails are relegated to the back of cookbooks, ancillary to the “real” stars of the show. In Down South, however, cocktails proudly set the stage for all of the deliciousness to come. Meyer lemon French 75s were my favorite, but the punch from the famous Flora-Bama bar (whose wallop I have felt on a few youthful road trips down the coast) was the crowd pleaser at my house. Following the initial cocktail section of the book, Link takes you inside an “old-school Southern cocktail party” with dishes—spiced pecans, crab beignets, silky onion dip, and my favorite, bacon and Parmesan gougères—that transformed my Brooklyn kitchen table into a groaning Southern sideboard. The rest of the book is just as inviting, and Link’s enthusiasm for the region is palpable. Cooking from this book took me a thousand miles down south and out of the northeastern cold. —Kaylee Hammonds
Available February 25 from Clarkson Potter; $24.63
UNDER THE SHADE OF OLIVE TREES: RECIPES FROM JERUSALEM TO MARRAKECH AND BEYOND
by Nadia Zerouali & Merijn Tol
This playful romp through Arabia comes from the hosts of a Middle Eastern cooking program in the Netherlands who, through their travels, have come to see the area that stretches from the Mediterranean and North Africa to Iran, as a multicultural tapestry united by an ancient culinary history. In their latest book, Under the Shade of Olive Trees, they incorporate historic dishes such as Iraqimadfuna—a ground lamb-stuffed eggplant dish spiked with rose water that was popular in the Middle Ages—with easy, contemporary riffs on Middle Eastern cuisine, including their two-ingredient tahini-halva ice cream. Informative sidebars provide short histories of ingredients such as sumac and argan oil, along with tips on incorporating them into all manner of cooking. Nadia and Merijn’s inventive energy comes through in recipes like a modified Arabic flatbread, which uses an upside-down wok in place of the traditional rounded metal griddles used by street vendors in Lebanon. They have even included a special section in the back of the book where friends like Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of the first organic market in Lebanon, and Ingmar Neizen, an expert on African cuisine, share their favorite recipes. Though many of the recipes are basic, this book is full of surprises, my favorite of which was Niezen’s Sudanese falafel, a spicy, sesame encrusted version of the ubiquitous Middle Eastern snack served, in her version, with a tart-hot African peanut sauce. This cookbook offers a modern, innovative perspective on an amazing culinary region.—Felicia Campbell
Available March 18 from Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $31.50
LA MERE BRAZIER: THE MOTHER OF MODERN FRENCH COOKING
by Eugenie Brazier
Simple French fare is my preferred comfort food: an omelet with salad, a slice of pâté, perfectly-executed moules marinières—for me, these simple bites can transform a drab day into something else entirely. My collection of French cookery books has swallowed my bookshelf to the degree that I’ve had to enforce an “only if it’s extraordinary” rule on my purchases, but La Mère Brazier: The Mother of Modern French Cooking is just that. Available in English for the first time this month, La Mère Brazier brings the life, voice, and recipes of an iconic French chef to an Anglophone audience at long last. Paul Bocuse, who apprenticed in Brazier’s kitchen, wrote the highly respectful and nostalgic forward to this book. Care has been taken to retain the historical accuracy of the recipes while making them accessible to modern home cooks. And the stories of Brazier’s rise from farm-hand to fêted, decorated chef—she was the first woman to receive six Michelin stars—is told with such charm and simplicity, and with such emphasis on the humble roots of much of her food, that I could not help but hear her voice as I stood in my kitchen recently, whipping up a batch of her Parisian gnocchi, feeling grateful that there was room on my shelf for at least one more book. —Kaylee Hammonds
Available March 25 from Rizzoli, $24.92
YUCATÁN: RECIPES FROM A CULINARY EXPEDITION
by David Sterling
Before I picked up this book, I knew little about the Yucatán, apart from what I had read in the story The Queen of Yucatán from our Mexico issue. With that meager knowledge in mind, I approached David Sterling’s tome not without apprehension. The book runs through all the sub-regions of the Yucatán, almost a food-driven road trip in text. And beyond Sterling’s encyclopedic and meticulously-researched knowledge of Yucatecan food, his love for and connection to the region and its fare are evident on every page; it is rare to find such humble passion and vigor in a volume that is so comprehensive and informational. The photographs capture scenes from the streets, food stalls, and home kitchens, as well as landscapes from the region. Nothing feels staged; the images of the recipes are mouth-watering, yet homey, imperfect, and entirely in tune with the rest of the book.
The recipes, too, are surprisingly accessible. On a snowy night in New York City, I set out to make Ajiaca, a deeply garlicky stew with a strong orange color. After roasting six heads of garlic and squeezing out the slightly sweet, liquified cloves, I started adding vegetables to a stock pot. By the end of a long stew, large hunks of pork tore apart under the tines of my fork. An entire diced potato had disintegrated into the stew, giving it a comforting thickness and satisfying texture. I spooned out bowls of pork and vegetables, topped them with the orange broth, and finished with plantains I had twice fried into tostones, putting together a bowl of the Yucatán. I couldn’t imagine eating anything better on a cold winter night. —Oliver Erteman
Available March 30 from University of Texas Press, $40.65
LODGE CAST IRON NATION: GREAT AMERICAN COOKING FROM COAST TO COAST
By The Lodge Company
It was my mother-in-law—an exemplary cook—who gifted me with a Lodge cast iron skillet when I was just a newlywed. That was a decade ago, and it’s since been U-Hauled across the country and moved in and out of countless New York City apartments. But no matter how tiny the stove (and there have been some Easy Bake Oven-style varieties in past kitchens), I always find a home for my trusty skillet on the back left burner. In Cast Iron Nation, Lodge celebrates the deep ties Americans have to this well-seasoned cookware, with recipes that span the nation. A few classics make an appearance: center-cut, bone-in pork chops that become sweet with a quick sear; a buttermilk-brined fried chicken; and a handful of trusty cornbreads, cooked in the vessel that gives the requisite cracking crust. But there are plenty of rather sophisticated recipes represented here, too, and I fell hard for the squash bisque with mascarpone and apple-cheese crostini. I could never have imagined making soup in my skillet, yet the flavors roast and melt down to a wintery perfection. The North Carolina clam chowder, a warm-your-belly kind of dish, ditches the thick base, and allows plump clams to steal the thunder. Since I’ve found this cookbook, now thoroughly dog-eared, it seems that my beloved skillet has made its way to the front burner on a near-daily basis. —Anne Roderique-Jones
SLICES OF LIFE: A FOOD WRITER COOKS THROUGH MANY A CONUNDRUM
by Leah Eskin
For charm, you can’t beat Leah Eskin’s memoir and cookbook, Slices of Life (Running Press, 2014). The long-time SAVEUR contributor and Chicago Tribune columnist brings an irreverent humor, cool precision, and gustatory gusto to her accounts of American family life. Each small, resonant moment is occasion to cook something delicious: a child’s obsession with dinosaurs leads to batches of stegosaurus-shaped pumpkin muffins; an audiophile husband’s grudging surrender of the aubergine-colored mega-speakers that hogged the living room inspires a bout of eggplant cookery; a sulking pre-teen gets Mom’s love in the form of an Asian chicken salad. So much domesticity necessarily inspires nostalgia, but Eskin is such a versatile cook that such reveries offer pithy surprises: college memories come attached to a recipe for lobster rolls; tax day merits its own dessert, an almond and popcorn brittle. Readers with a more categorical sensibility might be disconcerted by Eskin’s haphazard organization—ice cream recipes up against a granola recipe up against a tarragon chicken recipe—but the book simply mirrors life, which is brimming with episodes either happy or sad but always punctuated by a meal. —Betsy Andrews