What Food Trends Do You See for the Valley in 2012?

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com. Miss a question? Go here.

From predicted national trends in cuisine like Scandinavian flavors, caneles, and sous-vide at home to my fortune-telling stab at Valley crazes like more breakfasts, Nutella, and the peak/screwing over of food trucks, it's anyone's guess as to what this year holds for food in greater Phoenix.

Perhaps the best folks to ask are the ones right in the thick of it: Valley chefs and restaurateurs. So I did. And here are some of their answers:

Lauren Bailey Owner, Windsor/Churn/Postino Central

We're going to see people wanting healthier food fast, smaller footprints for restaurants and bars, and even more food trucks. The city is getting behind local business owners and trying to cut a lot of the red tape that discourages potential projects from getting off the ground. The adaptive reuse program is getting stronger and allowing people to put businesses in really cool buildings while preserving them at the same time.

Joshua Hebert Owner and chef, Posh

More expansion and better craft cocktails already have taken a strong hold, as well as smaller portions of food to offset global inflation and health concerns.

Christopher Nicosia Chef, Sassi

I hope to see the food truck trend take off in the Valley. I know that there are those who see food trucks as a menace, but it creates a whole different culture of street food, which would add to the evolution of our food scene, in general.

Eddie Matney Owner and chef, Eddie's House

More people eating smarter, healthier, and supporting our local independent chefs. Not a fan of chain restaurants.

Robert Morris General Manager and sommelier, Cork Restaurant

Quick, casual, and more counter service. This a trend that dominated 2011 and will continue.

Meggie Miller Marketing manager, Twin Peaks

Have you heard that lame joke about how the hipster burned his mouth? He ate his dinner before it was cool. Poor guy. I love it that it's so important to people to find those new, exciting places before their friends do. Just as people crazily race to post the obligatory "FIRST!" comment on YouTube videos, restaurant guests are eager to be the first to find lesser-known gems and surprising twists on cuisine in their communities.

Another trend we're seeing is that guests are looking for fresh, interesting food with unexpected twists and surprises.

Jason Alford Chef, Roka Akor

A push in mixology. Stuff like R+D at Citizen Public House. Double-boiled gin, tableside? Yes, please. Also, the influx of premium ingredients Valleywide -- people are starting to open their minds and palates.

Justin Beckett Owner and chef, Beckett's Table

I hope to see a trend continue: the opening of many small, independent eateries.

Peter DeRuvo Former chef and co-owner, Cuoco Pazzo

The "chef" word is no longer the trend; the food and ingredients speak for themselves. Farm-to-table has become "family to the table" and all of us should have realized that decades ago before the word "farm" became famous. Now, it's played out like "extra virgin olive oil" that's been cold-pressed!

Gregg Troilo Owner, British Open Pub

We seem to follow California's and New York's lead on a lot of our restaurant themes. It's my opinion that entrepreneurs will continue to invent variations on a basic theme in order to bring customers in.

Michael Monti Owner, Monti's La Casa Vieja

We need more meats on sticks -- maybe meatballs on sticks.

Chef Michael Stebner True Food

A huge push toward healthier whole foods and ethnic flavors.

Andrew Nam Chef and partner, Stingray/Jimmy Woo's Asian Bistro/Spanish Fly/Geisha A Go Go

Through this rough economy people have been cutting back in all areas. It appears that they are starting to spend their money again but looking for value in what they order. Value comes in a lot of different forms: portion size, service, ambiance, and quality, to name a few.

Brian Feirstein Chef, Cask 63

More independent, chef-driven restaurants with cocktails and wine lists that are derived from culinary inspiration.

Eric Flatt Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill/Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House

Craft beers are still on the rise. I just got back from Bend, Oregon, and the brewers there are incredible. Phoenix is right there with them and more are coming to the Valley.

Neighborhood restaurants with house-made foods. It's nice to see them getting away from pre-made foods. I would owe this to the rise of culinary students who flood the food scene and cannot always find jobs in award-winning restaurants so they settle for what they can find and end up changing the direction of the restaurant and the quality of its food.

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