If there’s one word that sums up the direction among chefs as we move into the coming year, it’s healthy. Locally sourced, sustainable, and good-for-you menu items dominate the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” culinary forecast for 2013.

Topping the results were locally sourced meats and seafood and locally grown produce. This goes hand in hand with the trend toward sustainable seafood, which also made the list.

Sourcing locally also benefits the planet. In the United States, according to the World Watch Institute, food travels 1,500 miles on average from farm to consumer, while locally sourced food travels an average of just 44.6 miles.

Also on the list was nutritious food for children, including whole grains, mirroring an overall move toward healthier options in restaurants over the past couple of years. In fact, data from the MenuMonitor, created by Chicago–based research firm Technomic, saw the use of the word “healthy” on menu descriptions rise 86 percent from 2011 to 2012 and the use of the phrase “low-calorie” increase by a whopping 154 percent.

On the beverage side, on-site barrel-aged drinks, food-liquor pairings, and culinary cocktails will be the hottest trends in 2013. Mixology—the art of blending textures and flavors to make creative cocktails—is becoming a common practice.

“Artisan products, local sourcing, and culinary creativity are trendy on restaurant menus and our new research shows that to also be true behind the bar,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge for the National Restaurant Association.

The NRA surveyed 1,834 American Culinary Federation member chefs and 195 United States Bartenders’ Guild member bartenders in October and November 2012, asking them to rate items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorites” on menus in 2013.


  • Locally sourced meats, seafood, and produce—even "hyperlocal" (meaning grown in the restaurant's own gardens)

  • Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme

  • New cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)

  • Gluten-free cuisine

  • Sustainable seafood