2016 Culinary Trends for In-Flight Catering

As 2016 begins, the future of culinary is exciting. The trends for the upcoming year are going to have a big impact on our taste buds as well as the environment. Chefs around the world are coming up with unique items as they try to help the environment for the guests. This coming year we will see more authentic flavors while product is being grown more locally.

This year trends for in-flight catering are:

Locally-Sourced Meat and Seafood

In today’s world you can pretty much get anything you want shipped in from around the world. However, with this comes a cost to the environment and can sometimes alter the quality of the product. Chefs are now going to source more locally-raised meat and seafood, which helps conserve fuel and minimizes environmental impact while the quality of the meat and seafood is fresher. As a chef, trust me, you will taste a big difference when eating locally-grown meat and local seafood. The taste will bloom with every bite and you will help your local community. Usually, “local” means within 150 miles of the location.


As we try to eat healthier foods, chefs are making vegetables the star of many dishes. This does not necessarily mean there will be more vegetarian or vegan options on menus, but the focus will be on the vegetable while the protein amount will shrink. This is changing the way we eat and think about food. In some restaurants, the protein is a side as the vegetable is the main component of the dish. The trendiest vegetable for this upcoming year will be the cucumber. Cucumbers are being used more to bring in texture and coolness to dishes. Chefs are busy glazing, pickling, mixing and sous-viding cucumbers.

Bring the Heat

Beyond the chili, chefs are incorporating heat into many dishes using gochujang, a Korean barbeque sauce, as well as “berbere,” an Ethiopian spice blend, and Japanese “shichimi-togarashi,” red and green Thai curry. The spice of 2016 is turmeric, especially in juice blends. Sriracha is still popular, along with the chili, and consumer palates are warming up to these as well. Look for unique combinations like ancho chili ice cream and sriracha maple syrup.

Hawaiian Food

Hawaiian food will be very popular in 2016, especially “poke.” Poke is chopped raw fish, salt and a wide variety of flavorings. Chefs around the world are taking this dish to the next level with wasabi pearls, using raw fish other than the popular tuna, and making more complex flavors out of it. Hawaiian food is more than just pineapple on something or seared Spam, so be ready to enjoy when chefs bring more Hawaiian flavors to your palate this year.

Ethnically-Inspired Breakfast

We were always told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I agree. Say “Goodbye!” to your average breakfast with this new trend of bold, ethnically-inspired breakfast items. You will see more variety of cooking with eggs and ingredients like kimchi, hoisin and brown rice coming with your breakfast. Congee is also becoming more popular, with its porridge consistency and sweet and savory taste. You will also see more Latin flavors in breakfast with chilies, chorizo and with meat, like pork belly, for breakfast.

Farm Estate Branded Items

As we become more knowledgeable about food, we as consumers want to know where the food we are eating is coming from. Chefs are now using locally-sourced items into their dishes giving a story of the food and the specific brand of the item. Food we eat should have a story about it, such as honey from a local apiary or details about the farm where the item originated. This is a great way for chefs and farmers to work together in making cohesive dishes for us.

New Cuts of Meat

Chefs are using more parts of the animal, such as the cheeks, which are lean and tender. Just think about a few years ago when short ribs became popular, before the trend that meat was hard to give away; now everyone has it on their menu. “spinalis” is a great cut as well, if you can find it. Now, chefs are coming up with different cuts for the consumer to have an amazing and unique experience. Have you ever had a nice juicy prime rib and that outside piece of meat that looks like it is separated, but it is always consumed first? That is the spinalis (I know, it needs a different name!).

Locally-Grown Produce

Across the world we see more and more farmer’s markets popping up. This is a great way to get fresher, healthier and tastier produce. There has been a 350% increase in the number of farmer’s markets in the United States in the past 20 years, as we, the consumer, are trying to eat healthier and support more local farmers. Chefs are now more inclined to buy pricier local ingredients to control the quality more of their dishes. A Harvard study cites an Organic Center report, “Still No Free Lunch: Nutrient Levels in U.S. Food Supply Eroded by Pursuit of High Yields,” which states “farmers producing for a local and direct market are more likely to prioritize taste and nutritional quality over durability when making varietal decisions.”

Stuffed Dough

This year we will see more stuffed items like samosas, authentic empanadas, blintzes and even stuffed pretzels. These tasty treats will pack more flavor with every bite and they are usually easy to eat. Chefs this year will use all types of dough and will be exploring different ingredients to surprise us when eating these delicious stuffed items.

Signature Regional Cocktails

Just as what we eat should have a story about it, the cocktail you consume should as well. Cocktails are now going with more local traditions and unique spirits from the area. Highlighting these regional drinks can bring in a new twist to the meal as well with the story. Just like the mint julep in Kentucky, the Bellini from Venice, or Sazerac in New Orleans, all of these drinks bring, not only taste, but feelings of being in that destination while drinking them.


If you have any questions about this article or about in-flight catering, contact weborders@airculinaire.com.


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