How Culinary Is Inspiring A New U.S. Migration Food Rush: The Gold Rush Of Our Era

For the Connoisseur, food has always been a hot commodity, but now it’s becoming the cornerstone for property developer’s dream come true.  Healthy eating, choosing better quality and more obscure foods has generated a wave in the U.S. and has become the new 'cool' factor to many communities.  Foodies are shaping the culture of small cities and suburban America. Don’t be shocked when your city is invaded by the type of residents or visitors that are simply there to enjoy the pleasures of eating and drinking, and your city take on this new culture that is being formed around you.  People are building complete lifestyles around the idea of living where they eat, or traveling distances to receive great quality and great experiences.  It’s obvious that a shift has occurred in the food industry because people are no longer traveling to only major cities to get the best and finest cuisine. Emerging chefs are creating this  small-town movement, and the farm-to-table and locally produced/crafted culinary scene are major factors in what I am coining as the,  new Food Rush migration.

 

The Food Rush is all about creating a buzz around who is the chef/restaurant  and what city they are doing it! The ‘who’ and the ‘where’ for a foodie is key! The smaller the town the bigger the following it seems to me, to create your community.  There is low to no competition from existing restaurants (unless there is a signature place in the area, that is a town’s staple.  Typically, food is just the bonus to bustling cities like New Orleans and New York where you would expect to great culinary scene to compliment the amazing experience, however food is now taking the lead and being a major attraction.   And if roughly there are  40 million Millennials in America who claim to be “foodies” according to research by BBDO this market is only growing or should I call them GEN YUM, as NPR contributor Eva Throw describes the 40 Million foodies in her book A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food."

A  documentary on Netflix, Foodies: The Culinary Jetset highlights a few popular foodies globetrotting for their gastronomic adventures. If you are unfamiliar with ‘Foodies’ used in this way, Webster’s defines Foodies as “a person having an interest in the latest food fads”. However, I prefer the extended definition found on Wikipedia: “A foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.  A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.”  If you eat for fuel let’s just say you would not relate to these people.  I define foodies the way in which the documentary highlight it as a subculture of people who go to high measures to have the best culinary experience usually to appease and/or excite all five senses.  As restaurateurs and even real estate developers it is in your best interest to understand this term, because they are the consumers who are pushing the food scene to new heights.  Maybe not everyone who moved to Austin is chasing a Michelin Star status for their restaurant but on a local level, chefs are becoming Rockstars in their own right and their restaurants and social media are their stage.

The next contributor to this food phenomenon are the Chefs are creating a fan base and developing a following that is creating a ripple effect in the adjacent industries and on the cities and towns’ value.  Below is a example created to demonstrate only how chefs are acquiring this status for themselves and becoming the hero for their town:

Unknown Sous Chef works in Big City X as an apprentice under a renowned chef (typically  cooking with traditional style cuisine). Unknown chef creates amazing dishes however, 1. It cannot be used at current restaurant it’s too modern or of a different style of cuisine 2. They are using Unknown Sous Chef’s master pieces but they have to be labeled as a creation of the restaurant so he/she remains unknown, hence the dilemma.  The Unknown Sous Chef moves far away from the Big City (or to another smaller city) and the well-known restaurant to start something of his/her own where they can create food they feel connected to and express their specialty and art form freely.  They usually have more time to experiment at this phase there is no crowds of people they can switch up menus be a bit more adventurous.   They are no longer playing it safe, now this is how the buzz begins.  Food writers, bloggers, and professional foodies “discover” the former unknown sous chef and his/her restaurant and come to review their  menu.  If all goes well and the rating and reviews are being more widely publish on a commercial level, the chef is an overnight success story.

In my eyes this has been the typical story for most trendy chefs today, just check any chef highlighted in the Netflix Original Series Chef’s Table.  But there are many factors that are part of today’s generation that affect the speed at which this “nothing to something” effect is happening, and one major part is played by social media.  Unknown chefs, or creators in their own rights, can share with the world their art, their product and connect with others near and far about what they are doing in seconds.  The real savvy ones are more engaging and invite and challenge people from the big cities who would traditional eat at the upscale restaurants to come and try the experience of local cuisines they are highlighting.

Is YouR CiTY NEXT? trendy Food Town Prerequisites

Affordable Real Estate

Funky/Quirky Neighborhood

Access to Farmers and Local Raised and Grown Food for Cheap

Adventurous Chef 

The food movement, like most trends start in low income neighborhood, and causing a domino effect on the community. It is my prediction that eventually the artisanal bakery will follow, then the international coffee shops, beer gardens, yoga studios and craft cocktail bars. We as a community and those of us in the hospitality industry can challenge the invasion of the businesses that are entering our neighborhood. Empower the follow community members that no rush can happen without your acceptance and challenge them to learn and incorporate local culture and heritage before developers began to rent out empty spaces. 

Is the Food Rush good or bad for these neighborhoods? I would say it depends on who is moving in. Are they focus on making profit for their own business and leaving out those who built it? Are they inclusive and welcoming them in the business with cost equivalent to the average income of the neighborhood. Or are they just there to generating more profit  and decrease their expenses in an affordable location, as I have heard 'creating an Uptown space for Downtown people'.  I challenge local communities  to not feel intimidated and enter these businesses and ask questions.  Get involved with your community board and local politicians and question developers. You have a voice too! As for the new chefs do your research, there are many ways to engage with existing businesses and community leaders. Listen to what the needs are of this "undiscovered" neighborhood do the work to force yourself and your movement unto those who are already there.