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a trend in itself

Chef Magazine - September 2002 (Excerpt)

By Brent T. Frei

Says Richard Laermer in his book, trendSpotting (The Berkly Publishing Group, 2002), “Once something, anything, is put into practice by three people and a celebrity, it’s a trend. The common trait shared by all trends is their ability to make a few smart people very, very, wealthy.”

That’s sardonic, but Laermer further distinguishes a trend from a fad in that a trend is something just emerging, whereas a fad is a flash in the pan. A trend is enjoyed by a few now, experienced by many tomorrow, and virtually touching everyone by next week, he says. A fad is like clear beer. No shelf life.

These days in foodservice, there’s a lot of talk about the future, perhaps a natural response to our approaching the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedies. Irena Chalmers, though not a futurist, per se, is nonetheless good at predicting what's coming down the road by observing diner wants. The author of several well-thumbed books, including The Great American Food Almanac (Harper Collins, 1986) and Good Old Food: A Taste From the Past(Barrons Educational Series, 1993), Irena is currently working on publishing FOOD Matters: The collision Between Tradition and Technology through the University of California Press.

I mention Irena because she’s a featured speaker at several upcoming conferences, not the least of which our own FENI Educators Summit in Chicago in February. (See our agenda on Page 21.) This month alone, she'll keynote the Council of Independent Restaurants of American’s third-annual conference in Chicago and the American Personal Chef Association’s (APCA) fifth-annual conference in Orlando. Interestingly, by Laermer’s definition above, Irena, who continues to predict foodservice of the future to foodservice professionals, is, herself, a trend. Speaking of APCA, particularly to Candy Wallace, founder and executive director of the San Diego-based association, the distinction between a trend and a fad hits home. In a conversation recently, she told me how the 10-year-old organization got off to a rocky start because few in the industry considered working as a personal chef to families a viable career path. Now, the more successful among personal chefs are making beaucoup bucks. The staying power of this career choice is further evidenced by the APCA offering professional-chef certification through the American Culinary Federation — which at first was dubious about the whole personal-chef thing--beginning in January. Says Candy, the future of the personal chef is not longer up for debate.

In this month’s issue of Chef, we also ride the future bandwagon, but then, we’re rarely off it....

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