Justin Thompson

Justin Thompson

We all want to know what’s hot before it becomes a thing.

In years past, food trends were more about specific ingredients. And while particular foods — cauliflower, anyone? — will be making an even bigger splash on restaurant menus in 2020, the trends tend to be more about a continued focus on sustainability, plant-based proteins, sugar alternatives and perspective.

We talked to a few Tulsa chefs about what they expect to see in 2020. Justin Thompson, proprietor of restaurants including Juniper, Prhyme and Tavolo, says the biggest trend he anticipates is the idea of the food telling the story of the chef.

“Lots of chefs in Tulsa are relying on their personal experience and history with family, friends and food to tell a story of why they are so passionate about their craft,” Thompson says.

Thompson says chefs including Nico Albert (Duet), Ian Van Anglen (Lowood), Roque Heidler (Juniper) and Audrey Long (The Tavern) are showcasing truly unique dishes that express how they feel about their craft and how they want their diners to experience their food.

“As chefs continue to push the boundaries of diners’ experience with food, I think we’ll see more people trying to recreate those experiences at home, too. It’s a fun time to be in the restaurant business right now,” Thompson says.

Ben Alexander is vice president of culinary operations for the McNellie’s Group, so he has the pulse of the food scene both in Tulsa and around the country. Alexander says the national trend of restaurants providing more plant-based options has trickled down to Tulsa.

When developing the new McNellie’s menu, kitchen manager Jason Ashing added a plant-based section. Plant-based sausages are on the menu at Fassler Hall, and diners can choose a plant-based burger at the popular Howdy Burger at Mother Road Market.

Alexander says local sourcing and healthy options both remain trends for 2020.

“I have been testing new menu items that are healthier options for our guests. Although I’ll still eat wings and noodles every day — not everyone is on my dad bod diet,” Alexander says.

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