A “Toast” to Grain Food Trends

In the restaurant and food industry, staying relevant and trendy is no easy feat. As consumers’ tastes and expectations change, yesterday’s hot food trends can be today’s stale concept. Production agriculture can bare the brunt of changing consumer trends as they grow and raise the food products that chefs and food manufacturers are demanding. Organizations, like the National Restaurant Association, have attempted to simplify – as much as possible – consumer demands through “Top Food Trends” lists released annually. The list serves as a guide about products that are “in” and products that are “out” across a wide range of categories. According to the 2015 rankings, grains are “in,” including a surprising trend favorite: toast.

According to Flavor & the Menu Magazine, toast is one of the top ten major influencers driving menu trends in 2015. “Toast is the comfort food we didn’t know we wanted,” said Food IQ’s Mindy Armstrong. While this trend is about innovating toast and pairing it with interesting toppings and flavors, there is still an emphasis on the classic bread base that drives this trend. In recent years, there was interest in focaccia, ciabatta, and pretzel bread, but now the interest has turned to more traditional breads, like biscuits, toast, and beer bread.

Farallon in San Francisco serves a Dungeness crab toast with piquillo aïoli and fresh avocado. Even with such elaborate toppings, the texture and flavor of the toast itself must hold its own.  Photo courtesy of Farallon.

Farallon in San Francisco serves a Dungeness crab toast with piquillo aïoli and fresh avocado. Even with such elaborate toppings, the texture and flavor of the toast itself must hold its own.
Photo courtesy of Farallon.

From our perspective, all this focus on bread boils down to the main ingredient – wheat! A bushel of wheat yields 42 one-and-a-half pound commercial loaves of white bread or about 90 one-pound loaves of whole wheat bread. Kansas, the number one flour milling state, produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread. That’s enough bread to feed everyone in the world for about 2 weeks, and plenty of bread to supply the toast trend.

Toast may not be going “out” anytime soon. According to food industry experts, what makes toast such a hot trend for chefs and consumers, alike, is its versatility. “Toast can transcend breakfast, moving into lunch, snacking, dinner and late night,” according to acclaimed chef Rob Corliss With the comfort of a fresh slice of toast as the base to these 24/7 dishes, the skies the limit when it comes to creating interesting flavor profiles and toppings.

Even for toast-challenged chefs, burnt toast is being used as a spice. As the Wheat Foods Council shares in their profile of the toast trend published in the April 2015 edition of Kernels, Chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of San Francisco’s Bar Tartine, are using burnt bread as a spice. To prepare, grill slices of crusty, country-style bread until it is black and grind into powder. The powder – think charcoal dust – has a nutty, smoky flavor that compliments mixes, sauces, chicken and roasted vegetables, or even ice cream.

Restaurants nationwide are adding toast dishes to their menus. Look for toast on the menu at your favorite restaurants or try your own flavor combinations at home. Bon Appetít Magazine said it best: “While the rise of ‘toast’ as a food group may sound silly, trust us: There’s no better (or easier) way to show off seriously fresh, vibrant ingredients. If you ask us, it’s the best thing since, well, you know…”