A perfectly runny egg yolk, captured oozing out its confines onto a waiting waffle. The cross-section of an unwieldy burger, percolating with cheese. A dripping ice cream cone held in one hand, like a torch, in front of a textured wall. All have become the food clichés of Instagram, garnering hundreds of thousands of likes and spurring anyone who takes pictures of their food to follow suit.
When searching for somewhere to eat, we’re as likely to look up a restaurant’s Instagram feed to get an idea of their menu as we are to visit their website. Anonymous restaurant critics have been replaced by very public “influencers,” most often Instagrammers devoted to their food feeds. But even our own social circles play a role in our decision-making process – eateries know that their customers, if they get some alluring snapshots, have the power to convince their friends to visit, too. “It was no accident that our name is on our plates,” says Brendan Bankowski, owner of the Beltliner Diner in Calgary. “We know people are taking and sharing photos of their food.”
Beyond the food itself, restaurateurs are considering factors such as Instagram-worthy walls, strategic logo placement and accessibility for photo ops when designing new spaces. “People take feet selfies on patterned floors. At Two Penny Chinese, we have really cool mosaic tile that gets posted on Instagram all the time,” says interior designer Sarah Ward of Sarah Ward Interiors, where they have over a dozen of Calgary’s hippest restaurants in their portfolio. Some clients specifically ask for it to be a consideration – trendy brunch spot the Bro’kin Yolk requested their logo on a wall and it gets photographed all the time.
Instagram has changed the game for home cooks, too, providing a torrent of inspiration and recipe ideas. More than ever before, chefs and food writers use Instagram stories as a teaching tool, showing their audiences how to spatchcock a chicken or decorate a cake in 15-second spurts. It has changed the game for plant-based eaters and anyone with dietary challenges, expanding their communities and making it easier to learn new techniques or seek out culinary guidance. While we used to have only friends, cookbooks and magazines for reference, we now refer to Instagram accounts and even hashtags, like #workweeklunch, for inspiration or to find new accounts to follow, expanding the digital smorgasbord we eat with our eyes.
Food and drink in 2018
We’re all eating our veggies
Veganism became laterally known as plant-based eating – and more mainstream, even for those who don’t commit full-time to the diet. Restaurants, including Earls Kitchen + Bar, rolled out plant-based menu options, and A&W added the Beyond Meat Burger to its offerings – and could barely keep up with customer demand.
Delivery options diversify
Uber Eats went national, launching in 30 cities and towns across Canada, joining Skip the Dishes, DoorDash and Foodora in the business of delivering restaurant meals to your door. Restaurants adjust to filling to-go orders along with traditional dinner service, with some, such as Toronto pizzeria General Assembly, building a separate take-out entrance to accommodate couriers from these services.
Meal kits gained momentum as giants HelloFresh and Chefs Plate joined forces to create the largest DIY dinner delivery service in Canada. Grocery retailers scrambled to offer their own meal kits, or join forces. Companies such as Metro in Quebec, which acquired MissFresh in 2017, attempted to reduce the environmental impact of these kits by offering pickup locations, reusable bags and recycling bins.
The last straw
Vancouver voted to ban plastic straws at foodservice locations and restrict polystyrene foam cups and containers and plastic shopping bags; many restaurants voluntarily followed suit. Canadian environment ministers set a national strategy to curb plastic pollution, with a goal to cut waste in half by 2040.
Cannabis legalization spurred cookbooks and magazines dedicated to weed and inspired chefs to experiment with cannabis oil and focus on the future of edibles. Chef John Michael MacNeil launched ready-to-infuse gourmet baking mixes and beer companies started to play around with cannabis-infused beverages.
Netflix and fill
Netflix delved deeper into the realm of cooking shows with new original series Ugly Delicious with David Chang, Salt Fat Acid Heat with Samin Nosrat, and The Final Table (Calgary chef Darren MacLean is the only Canadian competitor) delivering more thoughtful, longer-form online culinary video content.
Food halls are hip
Food halls became the food court of the modern age, allowing chefs and restaurateurs to expand into new spaces without the financial and staffing commitment of full bricks-and-mortar locations. Gathering places such as the Assembly Chef’s Hall in Toronto offer coffee, pizza, ramen, Spanish pintxos, cocktails and sushi under one roof.
Remembering Anthony Bourdain
The death of Anthony Bourdain was devastating not only to the culinary community, but to all who loved his brashness and compassion, who connected with people and unknown parts of the world through his back-door travels. His books jettisoned back to the top of non-fiction bestsellers lists.
Waste not, want not
A new appreciation for aesthetically imperfect produce and root-to-stem eating addressed the issue of food waste, as the late 2017 documentary Wasted! the Story of Food Waste (with Bourdain) aired on CBC in August. More organizations set their sights on rescuing and redistributing food from farms, restaurants, production facilities and even back yards.
Good food for all
Good Food Boxes tap into the buying power of co-ops to provide affordable bins of fresh produce at scheduled pick-up locations – the generally not-for-profit food distribution systems are popping up across Canada, making good food more affordable and accessible to those who need it.