As 2016 comes to a close, thoughts turn to 2017. We’ll have a new president, a new Star Wars movie will hit theaters, and Minneapolis will host the summer X Games. 

But what can the meetings and events industry expect? Eight experts weigh in on what the New Year will bring (both in and out). Our favorites? Edible spray paint, high-end catering ware, Asian-Pacific cuisine (especially if it involves poke) and an end to pretentious bartenders. 

Sit down, take notes and think about how you can incorporate all of this into your 2017 fetes, retreats and more. 


Citrus cured char, orange, pickled fresno, fried lotus root by D'Amico Catering.

TRAVELING THE GLOBE

In 2017, we’re traveling the world. 

Asian-Pacific and Korean flavors will be hot on the scene, a delicious trend that started out in the West Coast but is slowly making its way to the Midwest, according to Rachel Bruzek, senior creative events and trends specialist of D’Amico Catering in Minneapolis. 

Along with Asian-Pacific cuisine, Alana Koderick, director of hospitality at Envision Catering & Hospitality (formerly Prom Catering) in St. Paul, adds that authentic Mexican food is landing on attendees’ plates. 

Solidifying this worldly trend is John Chesnut, who cites even more examples and notes that chefs and caterers are going the extra mile to provide authentic flavors and dishes.

“Look for Central and South American cuisine to continue to gain traction on menus, especially seafood,” says Chesnut, the executive chef for CRAVE Catering in Minneapolis. “This is not the put-somethingin-a-tortilla-and-call-it-a-taco fad, but rather dishes inspired or rediscovered from authentic cookery.”

Big, bold flavors also are hitting the scene. Think chimichurri atop a piece of beef or traditional snack mix with Sriracha and honey. 

Testament to that trend is the International Caterers Association CATIE (Catered Arts Through Innovative Excellence) Award that CRAVE Catering won for its Inferno Popcorn (Sriracha caramel popcorn). The snack debuted on a smoking cart of popcorn (pushed by a jester, no less) at an event they catered for Enticing Entertainment that included fire dancers, acrobats and aerialists—there could not have been a better place to introduce their sweet and spicy treat. 

“We needed to find an item to fit [Enticing Entertainment’s] constantly changing theme,” says Chesnut. “They gave us complete control in choosing what should fit and work best for their event.” 

Staying in State

But while caterers are pulling in recipes from across the globe, the actual food they’re using is coming straight from our great state. 

In 2016, a big push in catering was local and organic food, and Bruzek says that will continue into 2017. Chesnut agrees, adding, however, that the buzzword “farm-to-table” is heading out the door. 

“Clients want to know that their ingredients are wholesome and come from nearby,” he says. “This is obvious as there are food co-ops and Whole Foods Market locations popping up on nearly every corner of the Twin Cities.”

Homegrown companies are thankful for the local love, as it helps them stay alive and focus on giving back to their community. In essence, we all win. “We could not be more excited about the love for local products and how willing clients are to pay a little more to support our local community,” says Angela Dusold, marketing director of Mintahoe Catering & Events in Minneapolis. “This inspiring shift in the consumer behavior allows us to give back to our community more than ever, which is really special.”

Dusold says things are going back to the basics, especially in light of customers’ desire to purchase food close to home. “There is certainly a time and a place for caviar and stone claw crab, but in our experience, exotic menu items seem to be a thing of the past,” she says. “We think this is partially because clients prefer local products and partially because clients no longer prioritize flash menu items that not all guests will enjoy.”

PRESENTATION IS KEY

Food isn’t just about eating anymore. That may sound counterintuitive, but food is also about preparation and presentation. And nowhere is that more obvious than in event catering. 

“The consistent theme is that whatever it is that’s being served, it should be as interactive as possible,” says Chesnut. “Whether verbally engaging the guest with choices and spectacle or having them prepare their own custom items to consume; food is becoming an experience.”

Chesnut goes one step further with the type of catering experiences guests can expect. Examples include incorporating molecular gastronomy in different ways, food that flies in on drones and what he calls a “suspension of reality,” where food looks one way but tastes completely different. 

“The new millennial clients are asking to see [food service] in a different way,” he says. “They want what hasn’t been seen or done before.”

Some of this can be attributed to social media. People love letting friends know what they’re doing, who they’re with and where it’s happening. “2016 has all been about eating with your eyes,” says Koderick. “Our clients love to take pictures. We see them posting, tweeting, snapping and Instagramming pretty pictures of our food all dressed up.”

CREATING LESS WASTE

While we’ll be eating globally, we’ll also be thinking globally. A big problem within catering (and really all industries) is landfill capacity. Paper, plastic and food can be thrown away and forgotten, landing in a landfill and harming our global environment.

To thwart this, SelfEco, a Stillwater-based manufacturing company, just launched a line of disposable service ware. Called Compostable without Compromise, the line offers catering ware that is attractive, high-quality and, yes, compostable. The idea came about as Danny Mishek, president of the company, and his team started talking to people in the food industry. The more and more Mishek’s team got out, the more they saw a trend of people working to turn organics into compost and avoiding landfills. 

“It’s a trend that isn’t going to go away,” says Mishek. “When more and more people are getting exposed to landfill capacities in cities, I think there’s going to be an avenue where legislation and city council say, ‘We need to make a policy change.’”

But while using alternative ware such as this might come across as expensive, Mishek says that just isn’t the case—he’s finding that they’re only 2 pennies more than other high-end ware and 2 pennies less than other petroleum ware. (Ninety-eight percent of plastics in general are petroleum-based.)

Philip Dorwart, owner and chef at Create Catering in Minneapolis, is one example of a caterer looking to reduce waste. He constantly sees utensils, cups and other items thrown away after events, but his team wants to change that practice. “The catering industry is notorious for waste and using plastic,” says Dorwart. “We are combating that by using compostables and recycling everything we can.”

In a food-related sense, Chesnut mentions more chefs and caterers are using scraps or products from other food production to create dishes. “Waste-based cookery is coming onto the scene in late 2016,” says Chesnut. “I truly believe that based on the continual rise in commodities and labor, as well as the higher cost of organic products, this will be around for a while.”

Environmental causes and philanthropy as a whole will see a big push in 2017. And clients will start selecting companies based on their actions and desire to give back. 

“Collectively, consumers are more conscious about their impact on the world,” says Dusold. “Catering companies that give back to communities using food for the greater good will resonate well with clients in 2017.”


Stuffed Portobello mushroom caps with fresh tomatoess, zucchini, yellow squash, goat cheese and Parmesan risotto by Envision Catering & Hospitality

CUTTING COSTS

Much catered food will be small plates with, you guessed it, big, bold flavors. And, at many chef stations, you’ll see alternative cuts of meat. At one event, Bruzek’s team prepared a flank steak as though it was beef tenderloins. Part of this is to be creative, but another is to cut costs, fighting against the high increases in beef. 

Also counteracting these increases are protein alternatives. Vegetarians can rejoice—Bruzek predicts using vegetables or other meat alternatives as main dishes will be more frequently seen. Koderick agrees: “Vegetables are everywhere, and they’re not just appearing on the side,” she says. “They’re taking center stage on many plates and not just as a gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian alternative.”

Bruzek enjoys figuring out ways to incorporate trends into her catering so that she is constantly providing her clients with fresh, exciting options. And she likes that working so hard to come up with new ideas is an opportunity to strengthen her team. “I like figuring things out, because it’s all a challenge,” Bruzek says. “I like to see what we can do and really grow as a team.” 

Bottoms Up

It’s safe to say Nick Kosevich, proprietor of Bittercube—a bitters manufacturer produced in Milwaukee, Wisc., beverage consultant and event company—knows what he’s talking about when it comes to alcohol. For the past seven years, he’s traveled to 15 different markets across the country and throughout the world, serving as a judge for Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition. He’s your go-to source for staying on top of beverage trends. 

Kosevich notes that just as locally sourced food has been on the rise for the past few years, drinks that incorporate local flavors are popping on the scene. Think wild rice and sweet corn for Minnesota. Yes, you might just see rice in your next cocktail. 

“Everywhere I go, I’m seeing more and more of that type of connection to a location,” says Kosevich. “That’s a very interesting trend to look at. When you incorporate your surroundings, it makes it a very unique experience.”

Kosevich also notes drinks are getting more visual. Specifically, you won’t be seeing your dirty martini served in a standard martini glass; it’ll be served to you with edible flowers in a crazy vessel with smoke billowing atop the drink and edible spray paint across the glass. 

Dan Oskey, chief operator, Tattersall—a distillery location cocktail room in Minneapolis—mentions rum as something we can expect to see more and more of in cocktail offerings. 

“I think it’s one of the coolest categories as far as a spirit goes,” he says. “There are more styles of rum out there than any other spirit. That makes this a little daunting, but I think it’s really, really fun.”

Aside from rum, Kosevich thinks low-proof cocktails featuring wine, beer, apéritifs and sake will soon gain momentum. As well, the notion that high-quality cocktails should be found nationwide—not just New York, San Francisco and LA—will become more popular. Good news for us Minnesotans. 

“In the last 10 years, the one thing that’s happening is a continued movement toward spreading the idea that everyone deserves a good cocktail,” he says. “In terms of what the overall trend is the idea that quality is for everyone, and there are lots of ways to get there. I don’t think that’s something that will go away.”

2016 TRENDS, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

As 2017 rolls in, we must bid adieu to the things we saw in 2016.

For Koderick, one and only one trend from last year is on its way out—heavier, creamy sauces. They just don’t fit with the healthy, local trend happening right now. 

“Sauces are not health conscious,” Koderick says.

Chesnut notes that rainbow food (for example cake that shows different colors of the rainbow when it’s cut into) will slowly disappear. Color is still fairly popular, but as it fades away in bigger markets, the trend will die here, too. 

Catering services are shifting from sit-down dinners to chef stations and interactive opportunities. Consumers just don’t want plated fundraisers anymore. “People are looking for experiences,” Bruzek says. “This is true for restaurants as well as catering. It’s not just coming in and having a plate of food.”

In the beverage realm, craft cocktail bars helmed by pretentious bartenders that take more time than might be neces - sary to serve a drink will be long gone. “You ask someone what are the nega - tives of craft cocktails, and they’ll say the bartenders have bad attitudes and the drinks take too long,” says Kosevich, adding that some don’t understand the ingredients on the menu. “We’re getting back into hospitality.”

Oskey echoes that sentiment, noting that if you’re spending money on some - thing, you shouldn’t feel chastised. “In the past several years, there’s been a kind of pretension,” Oskey says. “If you’re going to pay premium prices, you expect to be treated like a guest in someone’s home.” 

As 2016 comes to a close, thoughts turn to 2017. We’ll have a new president, a new Star Wars movie will hit theaters, and Minneapolis will host the summer X Games. 

But what can the meetings and events industry expect? Eight experts weigh in on what the New Year will bring (both in and out). Our favorites? Edible spray paint, high-end catering ware, Asian-Pacific cuisine (especially if it involves poke) and an end to pretentious bartenders. 

Sit down, take notes and think about how you can incorporate all of this into your 2017 fetes, retreats and more.