What do we Actually Mean by Regionality?

When globalisation was still the holy grail, top chefs had produce flown in from all over the world. Nowadays, regionality and therefore seasonality take a front seat.

The high art of cuisine no longer means cooking as exotically as possible, but rather creating something new from whatever a certain region has to offer. This includes the rediscovery of old varieties, as well as cooking with food that was long forgotten or has never been used before. For example beet leaves and other vegetables that until recently weren't even available, or lichen, fir treetops or other wild-growing plants - from the delicate leaves of the nettle to the light green flower buds of devil's claw. 'Wild food', i.e. 'food without agriculture', such as mushrooms, herbs, roots or game meat, is spearheading the increasingly radical trend towards regional and local food.

 

Global trend – local specifics

 

Local and regional is no longer just that which comes from Germany or Austria, but what is grown in immediate proximity to the restaurant: in your own garden, by the local farmer, in surrounding meadows and forests or - increasingly in the future - in vertical high-tech glasshouses in the middle of big cities. And because this trend can no longer be adequately described within the context of regionality, it is now called 'brutally local' (or hyperlocal). Top chefs like René Redzepi in Copenhagen and Dan Barber in New York are some of its most famous protagonists. The names and places themselves show that 'brutally local' has nothing to do with local sentimentalism or nationalism. It is a global trend that manifests itself diversely depending on location.

 

Hyperlocalism and its consequences

 

Not only high-end restaurants, but also the food retail sector and many consumers have discovered the trend - in large part because it serves as a 'natural' curator in the face of an almost unlimited food supply. It defines new criteria for the selection as well as new requirements for the sourcing and preparation of food. It brings with it a number of logistical problems, particularly in regard to the wholesale trade. At least as long as hyperlocalism doesn't merge with a similarly radical view of seasonality, it will have equally far-reaching consequences for the conception of our menus. They will no longer be comprised of a starter with vegetables, a second course of fish, meat as the main course and a dessert to finish with. For each newly created menu following this trend, the focus will be increasingly on what is available from local fields and gardens, ponds and lakes, forests and meadows - all complemented by herbs and greens that grow year-round in the covered rooftop gardens of supermarkets and wholesale markets.

 

Copyright Photos: Nicole Heiling

About the Author Hanni Rützler

With her multidisciplinary approach to questions about eating and drinking habits, the Austrian food trend expert and consultant Hanni Rützler has established a great reputation that extends beyond the borders of the German-speaking countries. As a speaker and as the author of various books and studies, she is very well respected in particular because of her excellent skills as a mediator with a profound knowledge of the varying ‘logics’ of gastronomy and agriculture, health policy and the food industry, nutritional science and consumers. Her ‘Food Report’, published annually since 2013, is acknowledged as the most important trend barometer of the food industry in the German-speaking regions.

Copryright Photos: Nicole Heiling