In the future, restaurant guests will choose a diet based on their unique microbial profile.
Proteins on restaurant menus will not necessarily mean meat, but could mean crickets or plants.
And smart phones will have sensors that will allow chefs to tell when a melon is ripe or guests to verify whether that fish on their plate is really sea bass.
That’s how William Rosenzweig, dean and executive director of the Food Business School at The Culinary Institute of America, described the food industry in the very near future. He outlined his predictions at the 20th Annual UCLA Extension Restaurant Industry Conference held this week in Los Angeles.
Launched last year at the CIA campus in St. Helena, CA, the school is designed to meet the needs of a growing number of students interested less in culinary careers and more in rapidly changing global food systems, as entrepreneurs or corporate innovators.
Now on the CIA’s Greystone campus, the school will soon move into the 80,000-square-foot Copia facility created by wine maker Robert Mondavi as an American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in nearby Napa. The site has been vacant for about eight years.
The Northern California facility is also at the epicenter of the increasingly integrated worlds of food, agriculture and technology, with the restaurants and wine of the Napa Valley, the farms of the Sacramento Valley and the digital startups of Silicon Valley all nearby.
Here are some of the changes Rosenzweig contends will reshape the American dining scene in the next few years:
1. Biology of food is the new digital. Scientists are just beginning to understand the world of the human microbiome, the microorganisms in the body and in our food and soil that are vital to health, said Rosenzweig.
That research will lead to a new way of thinking about food that goes beyond nutritional content.
“Food will really become medicine,” he said. “We’re going to realize that we have this other intelligence in our gut that we don’t know yet what to do with.”
Farmers will begin talking about manipulating the biome of the products they produce, said Rosenzweig.
We’ll move from nutritional recommendations for society as a whole to uniquely personalized diets that speak to individual bacterial systems, he said. And consumers will eventually have their microbiome scanned, which will produce a huge database that could play into nutrition research.
2. The quantified self. With more consumers using Fitbits and Apple Watches, devices that collect individual data will increasingly play a role in consumer food choices.
3. Precision agriculture. Farms will have robots that apply fertilizer and pesticides only where needed on the fields, creating more efficiency and a path for more sustainable practices.
Rosenzweig contends indoor agriculture will become the next boom for farmers and the movement will transform cities as growers move into facilities across the country to produce truly local fruits and vegetables.
4. Meal delivery is here to stay. The logistics of moving food from point A to point B will improve rapidly, and consumers will increasingly embrace the home delivery of all manner of meals.
Already delivery has created a new meal occasion, said Rosenzweig. “It’s the ‘I don’t have time to cook, but I don’t want to go out’ meal occasion.”
5. Alternative proteins. Meat will no longer be the center of the plate, but crickets and plants will become the new protein.
“This is the biggest sea change that will come fast,” said Rosenzweig. “How long it will last and for whom remains to be seen. But we’re going to need a whole new vocabulary for these foods.”
6. Robotics. Momentum Machines later this year is scheduled to open a restaurant in San Francisco where robots cook burgers without any human intervention.
More automation is coming, said Rosenzweig, and integrating such technologies will be fraught with tough decisions for restaurant operators.
“That’s why we need the Food Business School, to better address those challenging issues,” he said.
7. The internet of food. Both residential and commercial kitchens will increasingly be connected by a network of intelligent data systems.
Already, major appliance makers are putting in sensors that will help restaurant operators manage their inventory with more precision, a trend that will significantly reduce food waste, said Rosenzweig.
9. Sensing and sensors. As soon as 2017, smart phones will be built with sensors with which people can scan food to get information. A chef could tell when a melon is ripe, for example, or a diner could identify the type of fish in their sushi. Wine makers could pinpoint the sugar content in their grapes, he said.
10. Data and personalization. Chefs will soon be able to turn to the internet to easily manipulate recipes to fit specific dietary needs. If they need a recipe for beef bourguignon, for example, that’s low in fat and uses no salt, a growing number of sources will provide that information quickly.
Rosenzweig noted that he is an investor in one such site: Yummly.com.
Contact Lisa Jennings: [email protected]
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