Food Network Chefs Talk Dining Trends & Social Media in South Beach

While in South Beach, FL for Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival, we had the opportunity to attend a few intimate industry panels with Food Network’s celebrity chefs at the boutique Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive, South Beach.

Friday afternoon, we got to listen to Chefs Marc Murphy, Michelle Bernstein, Michael Solomonov, Tony Maws, and John Kunkel talk about where they thought restaurant dining was headed in the industry panel, “Restaurant Diners: The Next Generation”, moderated by Jennifer Baum of Bullfrog and Baum.

SOBEWFF Bullfrog Baum Panel South Beach

Candid conversation ensued, and James Beard Award winner Michelle Bernstein commented that, although diners were more casual by trend, and not necessarily the sophisticated ‘high brow’ of days, they were truly concerned with where food and menu items were sourced from.

Chef Michy | Michelle BernsteinLocally own, locally sourced”’ is more important to today’s diner, and brand loyalty was a key factor. “Customers want to know”, said Bernstein, “where their fish comes from, and how the meat was slaughtered”, and what you as a restaurant owner or chef were doing that supports local economy.

Price has become an important decision making factor, but quality in food and dining still reigns with customers dining out in 2012.  Gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian were hot topics among the group, with Chef Marc Murphy and Michael Solomonov commenting on the importance of having options for diners with dietary needs-either on or off the menu. John Kunkel from Yardbirds added that variety in liquors and mixology were two trends they saw in their restaurants, and the wide selection of bourbons and brown spirits are well received by both regular and new diners at his highly acclaimed South Beach restaurant.

Chef Marc Murphy Chopped

The conversation turned briefly to social media and review sites, with all chefs expressed a sincere wish that diners give thought to enjoying and appreciating food ‘in the moment’, versus spending an inordinate amount of time photographing and ‘live tweeting or reviewing’ about their experience.

For so many of us on social media today, those comments gave us real pause.

“Food, to these chefs and restaurateurs, is like making great music, and we their concert audience.  How much more enjoyable an experience when we allow ourselves to taste and experience here and now, versus always acting as the ‘critic’.”

Jennifer Baum closed the panel discussion with a few questions from the audience, and the team from UrbanSwankBlog asked the chefs if they felt they cooked based on a demographic, or to please a certain crowd.

All agreed that, although it’s important to work within your ‘brand box’, and serve based on food costs, season, and price points, they felt that it was more important to create dishes that were true to form and concept, versus attempting to please an every changing dining crowd at their venues.

cell phones on tables


So what about you? If you’re a foodie or regular restaurant diner in your city, what trends do you see happening in the dining scene? How do you feel about live photos and tweeting in fine dining and local establishments? We consume data like food in the tech-centric age, but is there a line that we’ve crossed?

If you have an opinion, we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at editor (at) CraveLocal dot com. Comments will be selected for our next set of articles on restaurant and dining trends for 2012.

About Editor

Cassandra Rosen is the co-founder and Editor for Crave Local Media Network, an internationally recognized food, wine, and lifestyle blog. With a diverse career including international finance, design, and architecture, Cassandra has put her expertise at understanding buyer purchasing patterns and strategic partnerships to work for highly successful startups, as well as Fortune 500 brands. As a food and wine expert and judge, she has consulted on industry topics and cocktail trends for Bravo TV, Shape, Prevention, Reader's Digest, Swaay, Brides Magazine, and more. Along with her husband, she is now co-founder and lead partner at FK Interactive, a wine and spirits brand consulting and product development agency, located in Winter Park, Florida. She specializes in consumer analytics and strategic partnerships, and volunteers in the community each weekend as an educator.


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