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5 Shanghai chefs and industry experts tell us which food trends to look out for in 2018

The city's pros talk going green, casual dining, niche cuisine and more

Wondering what's up and coming for Shanghai's restaurant scene in 2018? We asked a few of the scene's stellar chefs and industry experts to share their thoughts on incoming dining trends for the year ahead. What's hotter: casual or fine dining? Who will be opening new restaurants? Where will they be – malls and clusters or standalone spots? What's in the future for Chinese cuisine? Let the wise words of the pros prepare you for another great year of eating in Shanghai.
Camden Hauge (EGG; Social Supply)

Camden Hauge (EGG; Social Supply)

'First, I’m hoping we’ll see fewer pop-ups, chef’s tables and so on – the scene is so saturated at the moment. 

'Hopefully there will be more niche cuisines coming out of the woodwork. The city could use some Ethiopian, Laotian, and the like – even some new great Southeast Asian cuisine. 

'Last, definitely more casual spots: places you can go that have super high-quality food and drink at reasonable prices – not just Shanghai’s infamous reasonable ‘value’ – in a comfortable environment, not for an “occasion”. I have faith there are some in the works…'

Carlos Sotomayor (elEfante)

Carlos Sotomayor (elEfante)

'I think this year, trends will see smaller menus that will change more rapidly. These days with all the food and beverage on offer, in order to be competitive you need to be adaptable and continue to bring a surprise element to the table. In certain cases, even adapting the menu to daily product availability or what's on offer locally. 

'Some of the new restaurants remind me a lot of gastropubs that became trendy in the U.S. in recent years, where chefs would create menus with great presentation and flavours in a very casual and trendy dining environment. New restaurants in 2018 will definitely go more towards casual dining than fine dining. More bites to share – it gets more fun eating several dishes instead of trying just one, and it is also what keeps the local market curious; smaller portions but different offerings. 

'There are a lot of great chefs now in Shanghai, old and new, with lots of potential. I'm happy to be friends with several of them – it keeps us striving to continue to evolve and support each other, and keeps us from doing the same things over and over again. I think it will be another exciting year full of new and interesting things.'

Jair Gudino Chavez (LAGO at Bellagio Shanghai; The Captain)

Jair Gudino Chavez (LAGO at Bellagio Shanghai; The Captain)

'I believe that as the culinary trends from recent years have become a lot more health-oriented, this year won’t be so different. We will be seeing a lot of haute cuisine with chia, flax, etcetera; fine dining restaurants will be trying to simplify their menus even more, trying to focus on local produce and traceability of organic ingredients, which is a difficult thing to accomplish – in Shanghai, at least. As the market is “going green", lots of healthy eateries will be appearing, trying to go vegan and at the same time trying to save the world, the beef and the dolphins. 

'Likewise, vegetable-focused and ethnic-inspired menus will be surfacing more and more. As humans start to overproduce meat in industrial quantities, we chefs will have to change their ways to more creative, out-of-the-box ideas involving grasses, seaweeds and other kinds of vegetables to make our menus more varied, colourful and textured – for example, tea will become more involved in savoury food. 

'Moreover, chefs will be trying to get their hands on unique items that no other kitchens have; things coming from very small and local places. And very rightly so – with the competition in the city getting bigger and bigger and as more and more celebrity chefs come into town, leaving the rest no choice but to survive, adapt, and overcome. The demand for new things from our customers is on the rise more than ever.' 

Kasper Elmholdt Pedersen (Pelikan)

Kasper Elmholdt Pedersen (Pelikan)

'The food scene in Shanghai is the most hectic, amazing, special and fast moving I have seen. After only having been here for about two years, I've seen it's definitely a place for foodies who don't want the same old, same old every time they go out. Shanghai is ready for everything all the time. 

'With that being said, I hope and believe everything will move in a direction where we start seeing more individual styles. I mean that in the way that while a chef might be from France, Australia or anywhere in the world, he'll want to show his personal techniques and try new things; creating restaurants that people visit because of the creativity and style, and not its “theme”. Of course, sticking to your home country's style of doing dishes is amazing – showing its culture and expressing food through memories and for the love of your home is something special and should not be taken away. But by seeking to find her or his own style, chefs will find influence from the amazing products and all of the other inspiration there is around us in this beautiful "little city".'

Nat Alexander (Homeslice Pizza; Yang Jing Bang)

Nat Alexander (Homeslice Pizza; Yang Jing Bang)

'We'll carry on seeing big name chefs coming in from outside China to create an outpost here. The ones which will succeed will be those have experienced partners; both a head chef with real China experience and a good operations partner. There isn't a quick buck to be made by dumping a big name in the market and expecting it to fly – it needs investment, persistence and experienced people on the ground.

'Malls and F&B clusters will keep coming, partly through government decree and partly through economics. It's a truism, but location is key in this city and putting a restaurant or bar together with others gives it a better chance of success than being a standalone. Sure, the rents are higher, but guaranteed footfall is worth paying for.

'Wine bars with character: we'll see more of these opening as people look for more intimate, casual wine experiences. 2017 saw a few openings and this will continue, and I think the market will continue to be more receptive as more and more people travel outside China to Europe. Plus, more experimentation with Chinese food – I don't think we will see much of this yet from local born chefs, but we will continue to see overseas Chinese and foreign chefs incorporating Chinese ingredients and techniques into their food. Sober Company is a prime example, and my own Yang Jing Bang also plays in this realm (though I'm not sure how much I'll be doing of this in 2018 – it depends on the lure of the pizza).

'On that note, last, a focus on casual and comfort food. While many new openings have grand concepts and high price tags, we'll continue to see places doing comfort food succeed. Why? Because most of the time people don't want to think too much about what they eat; they want a relaxing experience at an everyday price point, and that is also the part of Western food that that largest part of the local market are happy dipping into when they eat Western food.'

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