Shoot for the Stars
December 26, 2009
The end of the year always brings with it a need to reflect. We’re in a mood to ask “How far have I come? Am I where I want to be?” After a year as bumpy and unpredictable as 2009, it’s likely nobody will entirely love their answer to that question. But from what we saw (outlined in part in our 2009 Trends Report), the industry has a lot of reasons to be proud this year—and plenty of cause to hope for real gains in 2010.
In cultural terms, 2009 was a mixed bag. It saw the continued growth of the online foodie community, but it also saw the abrupt end of the much-beloved Gourmet magazine. All of us were saddened by the decision to end the 68-year run of the magazine. It played a role in my culinary awakening. I pored over its pages all through the 70s and 80s and cooked many a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner with Gourmet recipes. (In fact, I have almost 20 years of select holiday issues of the glossy magazine in boxes in my house!)
But as the shuttering of Gourmet attests, the print publishing industry has been hit hard in recent years and ad dollars are increasingly transitioning from print to online. Sadly, gourmet.com’s launch was simply too late. But many culinary magazines and websites are making it work in this tight market, with myriad food blogs at the top of their game, and StarChefs.com is just days away from celebrating our 15th anniversary! No doubt there are challenges ahead, but we’re optimistic that the challenges will also bring new opportunities. We ponder these new opportunities, and the changing landscape that’s made them possible, in The New Tastemakers, which is both a requiem for Gourmet and a look ahead to the future of culinary culture in this country.
In the kitchen, although 2009 had its bumps and bruises, there’s real cause to celebrate. The culinary industry has proven its adaptability yet again. Whatever creative concessions the industry made to tightening wallets—from gourmet food trucks to added lunch menus and increased options in by-the-glass wine service—the overall message of 2009 is clear: the restaurant industry is integral to the American economy.
In fact the hospitality industry has proven a key factor in economic recovery, employing 1 in 10 Americans in a time of soaring unemployment. When so many people are out of work, industry is consistently sending one tenth of us a steady paycheck. For those among you receiving those paychecks, we’ve set up our 2009 Salary Survey. (Need more reason to celebrate this year? Fill out the Salary Survey and you’re automatically eligible to win passes to our 2010 StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress!) And restaurants aren’t just employing one tenth of us, they’re feeding us on average half of our yearly food supply. That’s right, almost half of every single dollar spent on food in this country goes to a restaurant, and in 2009 that didn’t change. Cause for celebration? Absolutely.
If anything, 2010 should be all about how you can lure a bigger chunk of that change to your restaurant. Sure, 2009 saw a few surprising and saddening closures, but in an industry where you’re only as good as your last dish, there’s constant forward momentum. From online publications to mobile food operations, the dining scene is democratically diversified, and 2010 should be a year to invest in that creativity and freedom. After all, if you’ve made it through this year, you can do anything.
But before we get to work, planning, cooking, and tasting our way into 2010, let’s not forget to congratulate ourselves with a good dose of year-end revelry. So for those food pros who still have stamina after service this New Year’s Eve, go out and celebrate the contribution your profession makes to society. (And just in case you get a little too celebratory, we’ve put together a few key Hangover Remedies, recipes from chefs who’ve been there that are certain to knock you back into shape in time for the first dinner service of the New Year.)
We’ll see you in 2010. Happy Holidays!