“If you want to get to know a country – get to know its food.”
A universal truth from Chef Josefina López Méndez of El Chapulin, the Mexican restaurant located at InterContinental Presidente Mexico City.
Returning to the basics of why we all love to gather around food is top of mind for chefs at IHG Hotels & Resorts around the world, and they are ready to welcome back travelers hungry for a memorable meal.
Bigger Tables, Smaller Plates
“Dining out means so much more after everything we have been through,” says Archna Becker, chef and owner of Bhojanic in Atlanta. She’s also the culinary mind behind a new rooftop restaurant, Spice & Sky, at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Chamblee Dunwoody, which opened in Fall of 2021, in metro Atlanta.
“People are excited to be together again, and they are eating out in groups – with friends and family,” says Becker. You will see more family-style meals and shareable items, as well as comfort food.”
At Spice & Sky, the menu features a mix of staples like burgers and pizzas with less standard hotel fare like bulgogi bowls and Kathi rolls. “It offers the things guests are used to seeing, but also gives them a chance to try new flavors and dishes,” says Becker.
Becker also says, expect to see more simple, refined menus going into 2022 and beyond. “Diners are more aware and more educated about the food they are eating. It’s all about lighter, cleaner foods – I don’t use allergens or gluten in my cooking.”
More than 7,000 miles away in Dubai, Chef Juli LEWA, a consulting pastry chef for InterContinental Durrat al Riyadh Resort & Spa, and Executive Sous Chef, Sydney de Hart from Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown are echoing similar predictions.
“2022 will be all about simplicity. No big menu with so many lines that a server must explain the dish. Music that isn’t too loud and an uncomplicated dining area – the space is as important as the food.” As a pastry chef, LEWA says that even sweets are trending light. “People don’t want overly sweet or buttery desserts,” she says.
“More chefs will be getting back to a ‘less is more’ mentality and a minimalistic approach to cooking and plating,” says Hart, adding that an emphasis on communal dining and vegetarian dishes will gain steam in a big way.
Executive Sous Chef, Sydney de Hart from Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown
Health and wellness are something diners around the globe are paying attention to, and Executive Chef Eric Neo from InterContinental Singapore says expect healthier, vegetable-forward menus in 2022.
“The food & beverage industry is always changing, and that is what makes it so exciting,” says Neo. “Next year, watch for more of the plant-based movement where protein alternatives are used, and the push for locally-sourced produce and seafood will increase.”
Food habits are also being influenced by online communities, according to Chef Hart.
“The trend of embracing veganism and plant-based eating has grown thanks to social media. People have access to resources and inspiration and can readily find a tribe of like-minded people on these platforms.”
All these chefs make it a point to note that simplicity and cleaner foods will not take away from taste and flavor.
“We’ll have bold foods with ingredients that pop,” says Becker. “Food that doesn’t taste so rich but will still be delicious.”
Chef Josefina López Méndez of El Chapulin restaurant inside InterContinental Presidente Mexico City
Executive Chef Pedro Lopes from InterContinental Cascais-Estoril on Portugal’s coast says presenting seasonal produce and traditional cuisine in modern ways is the most important factor for him as the hotel welcomes guests back.
“The advantage of serving hotel guests is the opportunity to showcase our local produce and dishes to international visitors – to immerse them in Portuguese culture through our food,” says Lopes.
Back in Mexico, Chef Méndez is doing the same, creating menus that convey the variety of Mexican food.
“Given the wild diversity of climates in Mexico, the ingredients vary greatly between regions. Mexican cuisine is a mix of everything under the sun. The flavors are intense, colors are vivid, and combinations are endless,” she says.
Transporting themselves through food was how so many people’ traveled’ in 2020 and the first half of 2021 – now they can experience the real deal, and IHG chefs are incredibly cognizant of that.
“When we couldn’t travel, people were watching food and travel shows and recreating recipes at home looking for that international dish,” says Becker. “It’s certainly helped create a desire for authentic, good food as we see people traveling and dining out again.”