The food trends--or lack thereof-- in 2009

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"Value." "The economy." "No new concepts." "Staying open."

I talked to four of the top chefs in the state (and possibly the western United States) and asked each of them about the top Colorado food trends of 2009. I wanted to share their bold predictions, like "the new hottest dish will be anything with an egg on top" or "Peruvian is the new Thai." I wanted to be edgy and shock you with some random herb or vegetable that you don't know about.
I didn't get what I wanted.

When I asked chef Teri Rippeto -- from six-time Westword Best of Denver winner Potager--whether she thought there would be any new trends, she replied,"I hope not. I hope things stay simple and traditional, and there is honor in the food, not the people making it."

Damn it. Thinking that Rippeto might not be the most trendy chef -- since her emphasis has always been cooking locally and seasonally -- I next went to chef Jen Jasinski of the award-winning Rioja

"I think 'value' is the word for 2009," she told me. "I notice that the feedback we get at Rioja is people feel the food and service are in balance with the value notion in people's heads. They want to feel like they are not getting ripped off."

From there, Jasinski went on to talk about cooking from farm to table, simplicity, blah blah blah.
My article is in ruins!, I thought as I contemplated making up some trends: This year, everything gets a hearty drizzle of maple syrup! But instead, I went like a recently laidoff executive begging for a job to celebrated Fruition chef Alex Seidel. 

"I really don't pay attention to trends," Seidel said. "It's the simplicity of the ingredient. Showcasing the ingredient. Emphasizing technique on a daily basis. We try to do food that people understand, nothing too far out of the box. As chefs become more educated with animals, and how to cook them, look to see them using the whole animal."
Seidel continued: "We're moving towards local, but it's not as widely accepted here as it is in other parts of the country. We try to develop palettes, instead of focusing on foams and caviars." 

After my lengthy talk with Seidel, I began to realize one of the reasons why these chefs are among the best in the state: They love ingredients and respect them even more. So there are no trends, only tradition. And in the awful economic year ahead, it's tradition that will allow fit restaurants to survive.
To put the locally sourced icing on my sustainably produced cake, I called uber-chef Frank Bonanno of Mizuna, Luca D'Italia, Osteria Marco and soon, Bones. "The biggest trend will be staying open," he told me. "I know what we're doing. We lessen the footprint and cook local and sustainable. Nose-to-tail cooking." 
Even with my realization that tradition is the new trend, I couldn't stop myself from pressing Bonanno to name a few hot ingredients.

"Sambal," he offered, citing the spicy Asian condiment. "Only because we'll have a bowl of it at every table at Bones."

So there you go, Colorado: fucking sambal. And the whole economy, local, green, sustainable thing, too...-- Tyler Nemkov

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