As founder of the New York City Food & Wine Festival (and its sister event in Miami’s South Beach), Lee Schrager, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef and VP at Southern Wine and Spirits, created two now-famous events that are packed with renowned chefs, excellent food, and eager gastronomes from around the world.
This week, the festival lands in New York City, welcoming tens of thousands of eaters to attend events at venues around the city and raise money for charity (proceeds go to No Kid Hungry and Food Bank for New York City). The festival will feature all sorts of big names in food TV and five-star dining, including Mario Batali, April Bloomfield, Masaharu Morimoto, Ivan Orkin, and Rachael Ray, who will host her eighth annual Burger Bash under the auspices of Pat LaFrieda Meats (i.e. the meat behind the world-famous Shake Shack burger).
Heading up these two outsized events (the South Beach edition arrives in February 2016) has given Schrager an excellent view into how people’s tastes have transformed the way we celebrate food. Here, he discusses the future of food, and what trends he believes will dictate not just food festivals, but our entire approach to the way we eat.
“Technology is changing the way people experience food,” says Schrager. “It’s no longer just a nice thing for chefs and restaurants to have integrated digital platforms, it’s a necessity for driving business, and consumers now rely on it.” And he’s not just talking about every restaurant imaginable joining Seamless. According to Schrager, there’s a future where diners will be able to program their entire dining experience. “From easier ways to pay for your meal at the end of the night, to anticipated wait times for walk-ins, to the music that’s playing during your dining experience, preordering food and drinks to have waiting for you as soon as you sit, technology will continue evolving the consumer experience to place all aspects in the palm of one’s hand, literally.”
Seamless and GrubHub may rule when it comes to delivery from your neighborhood eateries, but Schrager believes fancier home-delivery services are going to be big. “Beyond Seamless, Blue Apron and Delivery.com are the services that bring high-end restaurant food to your home, maybe even the chance to re-create a sought-after food item from another market,” he says. “As other cities like Seattle and Austin grow as food destinations, the culture of having fine dining brought to your door will expand. This type of technological growth creates new job opportunities in cities with culinary scenes primed for growth.”
Schrager also believes that more and more people outside the traditional food world will join in. Think Beyoncé and her vegan food delivery service or model Chrissy Teigen’s own growing food empire.
“More celebrities from film, TV, sports, and music will enter the culinary space as a way to grow their brand,” he says. “With social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., it has been discovered that ultimately, food is the most universal thing that everyone can relate to. Through food, brands can be discovered and experienced differently, and the resources they put behind their involvement in food will become a bigger part of budgets.”
It’s never been easier to eat healthfully—or at least responsibly. According to Schrager, people will want to know that there is a story behind their food. “It’s no longer just about indulging in food,” he says. “People want to indulge in something, and know that it’s good for them, too. Even more so these days, chefs will get intimately involved in cultivating their own ingredients, owning their own farms, becoming more self-sufficient, and I think we’ll see them continuing to be more involved in the actual infrastructure that makes something ‘farm-to-table’ and play an active role in that supply-chain management moving forward.”