The Future of Food

In a city with a scene as vibrant as London’s, dietary trends move in cycles. Having such an incredibly multi-cultural community means there’s a constant influx of new, exotic ingredients on menu’s & social feeds far and wide, enticing curious covers and copycats to spread the word. In years gone by these cycles were largely influenced by seasonal produce, global trade tariffs dictating supermarket stocks or the ever-present fitness fads. But nowadays there’s some more macro considerations driving food development.

The twenty & thirty-somethings that are the lifeblood of London’s restaurants are blessed with having the most information at their disposal of any in human history. Thanks to scientific data and expert analysis being available at the click of a Google, we essentially have the ability to look into the future. However, with great power comes great responsibility (admittedly some taking this responsibility more serious than others) and so the awareness of our diets being a major contributor to environmental issues is a key inspiration for culinary progression.

The increasing popularity of veganism is the highest profile of these habitual shifts with people highlighting animal welfare and general healthy living alongside the eco argument. The pace that this previously niche movement has grown is nothing short of phenomenal with Veganuary participants reportedly increasing from 3,300 in 2014 to over 160,000 this year! This largely female (84%) and mostly under 35 (60%) movement has undoubtedly been amplified by the abundance of ‘woke’ influencers and celebs but nonetheless been fully embraced by the commercial sector. Following in the footsteps of the Impossible Burger which has taken the US by storm - (uses less 95% less land and 74% less water than a beef cow) - the likes of Dirty Bones and Mildreds (along with Moving Mountains) have introduced fully plant based, and bleeding, options. Sainsburys and the other big supermarkets are following suit in a move to cater for the now estimated 22m flexitarians across the country.  

For those not quite ready to cut down on their daily intake, “cultured” or “in vitro” meat in layman’s terms is essentially growing your steak via tissue engineering from cells taken from a live animal. The obvious benefits being that no animals are killed and zero land needs to be de-tree’d in order to produce it. Whilst sounding like something the Star Trek replicator would churn out this genuinely isn’t too far away with producers claiming that ‘clean meat’ will be available from the end of 2018. With initial surveys suggesting that most people would be receptive to incorporating cultured products into their diet, and considering that 15% of the global greenhouse emissions comes directly from livestock, this slightly bizarre concept could be key in diverting the apocalypse.

Lab-grown "clean" meat.  Photo: NY Times

Lab-grown "clean" meat. Photo: NY Times

Taking the idea of low carbon food to another level is Urban Agriculture. In 2015 around 9% of the world population engaged in a form of urban farming but advances in automation are allowing vertical farming (think multiple rows of fields underground) to be far more productive than traditional farming techniques. Imagine being served a plate of food where every single piece of fruit and veg was grown nearby!? Less CO2 emissions from transportation, a year round supply and zero risk of disease, pests or drought causing issues - it seems like a no brainer. Unfortunately a process that uses less power, produces less waste and grows at twice the speed of heritage crops doesn’t come cheap and so the costs are currently the equivalent to a mirror finished supercar. So this is one for a tad further down the line…

Hi-tech future farming. Photo:  99% Invisible  

Hi-tech future farming. Photo: 99% Invisible 

As it happens, the subject of what one could consider ‘pests’ is an important one. My only experience of incorporating insects into my diet has consisted of devouring a deep fried grasshopper at a Bangkok night market. I wasn’t necessarily sold, but equally wasn’t disgusted by it and London chefs are beginning to experiment with how to make this face-screwing taboo a mainstay of our meals. Archipelago in Fitzrovia has pioneered far-flung food for many years and naturally is at the forefront of the bug push with the option to follow your wildebeest stroganoff with a chocolate covered scorpion being a prime example. However, it’s new enterprises such as Grub Kitchen (who have a bug farm and promise to ‘take you on a journey from farm to fork’) and Eat Grub (exclusive Deliveroo launch last year) that are really innovating with creations such as ‘sour cream bamboo worm dip’ and ‘smoked chipotle cricket’. These kind of off-the-wall recipes are great at inspiring a distinct curiosity in the minds of enfoodiasts and we have no doubt this will cause continued experimentation amongst those expertly looking forward.  

Being acutely aware of the future holds for its clientele helps restaurants maintain credibility and without a doubt can be added to the list of loyalty inducing activities. Here at Déjà Vu we love to see people driving food forward and would love to hear about your thoughts on the most weird and wonderful of London’s cooking. Let’s continue the conversation with #dejafuture and #dejavuloyalty over on our Twitter and Instagram pages.

(We also considered researching whole-meal-in-a-pill ideas but seeing as eating actual meals is our passion we decided to leave this one firmly to the Jetsons, for now...)

Jack Donovan