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The 'Tastemakers' Who Shape Our Food Trends

From cronuts to kale chips to gluten-free, a look at food crazes and the people who create them.

A baking crew makes Cronuts, a croissant-donut hybrid, at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. (AP)

A baking crew makes Cronuts, a croissant-donut hybrid, at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. (AP)

You may think you’re immune to food trends, but odds are you’re not.  Compare your diet today to ten years ago.  If there’s not some new Greek yogurt or blueberries or different greens or dishes in there, you’re tough. And then there are the blazing meteors of kale and chia seed, Korean tacos and cronuts and the mad fad of cupcakes everywhere.  Who launches food trends?  Who whips them up and rolls them out and shapes the way we eat, the cravings we embrace, the shopping list we carry?  This hour On Point:  the tastemakers and the boiling world of food trends.

– Tom Ashbrook


David Sax, food writer. Author of the new book “The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy For Cupcakes But Fed Up With Fondue.” Also author of “Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen.” (@saxdavid)

Dominique Ansel, owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City. Creator of the Cronut. (@DominiqueAnsel)

From Tom’s Reading List

LA Weekly: The Tastemakers by David Sax: On Cupcakes, Fondue and “Trendologists” – “‘The Tastemakers’ delves into food trends from various angles, like the importance of money, food politics and marketing. Says Sax, ‘I wanted to find out what drove these trends and made them such a potent force in our daily lives.’”

New Republic: Why some foods become trendy, and others never take off – “The cronut is an edible fashion accessory. Editors from Vogue and Vanity Fair were sending their interns to wait in line for cronuts; it was the thing to eat last summer. A lot of food trends are very much fashion-based.”

Huffpost Taste: We’re Just Going To Declare That 2014 Is The Year Of The Sheet Cake – “You guys, we’ve been noticing something lately… a trend in food that we can’t and absolutely don’t want to keep to ourselves: SHEET CAKES.”

Read An Excerpt Of “The Tastemakers” By David Sax


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  • Godzilla the Intellectual

    I’m the kind of person who is way ahead of the trends. I usually am the one starting them.

    • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

      What’s coming?

      • Godzilla the Intellectual

        You want me to give away my intellectual property?

        Here is one freebie: On site farm to table cuisine at urban (and rural) farms. You go to the farm, they have an outdoor restaurant set up with a food truck, and chefs are making gourmet food on site, from the ingredients harvested on site.

        • Eric

          That’s been around for years:


          “The farm-to-table movement is nothing new, but for a handful of restaurants, the distance between farm and table is shrinking almost to zero. Not content simply to grow mint and dill in a 2×2 plot out back (some restaurants’ idea of a “farm”), they’re sourcing everything they served from their own land, complete with full-time on-site farm staff.”

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            And your point is?

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            Please go learn reading comprehension. I’m not here to babysit you.

        • nj_v2

          There are already plenty of farms with deli-coutners/restaurants, at least in our area. In places with real winters, for much of the year, they all have to use food from sources other than their farm.

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            When diarrhea comes out your mouth, does it hurt?

          • jefe68

            Where’s Mothra when you need him?

      • skelly74

        The trend to come is growing food in soil that has been bought and harvested from “pristine” land, for example: France, Ireland, Scotland…then the restaurant sponsoring the “Alien farm” will sell its edibles as superior nutrient rich ingredients.

        Your welcome!

        • skelly74

          The soil will be shipped to a farm near you.

  • hennorama
    • geraldfnord

      O.K., but I find it a little bland—not as in ‘not hot enough’ but lacking any kind of complexity, maybe I wouldn’t mind if I liked the simple flavours more. This:


      …on the other hand, is great,i.m.a.o.: hot but not too hot (if you use the right chilis), I double the ginger and add finely-chopped shallot or onion…..

      • hennorama

        geraldfnord — thanks for sharing.

  • nj_v2

    I was baking chia seeds into my crackers that i took on backpacking trips back in the 80s. Looks like i was one of the trendsetters.

  • Eric

    Soylent (http://www.soylent.me) has been receiving a lot of press lately.

    It’s going in the opposite direction of other recent food trends.

    • hennorama

      Eric — the product name is a double-edged sword. It garners attention, and simultaneously turns the stomach, due to the association with Soylent Green.

  • J__o__h__n

    I hate the trend of sticking bacon into everything.

    • tncanoeguy


      • KayJay12

        Kill, kill, and more kill. For a ten minute pleasure. So horrible.

  • hellokitty0580

    Kale is super good for you and pretty delicious- more substantial than lettuce. It’s basically become one of my favorite foods. Seriously. Same with coconut water. It’s an amazing help if you are dehydrated or suffering from heat stroke in the summer. It can help recalibrate your electrolytes. Similarly quinoa is a wonderful alternative to wheat, not just because it is wheat gluten free, but also because it has so much healthful properties. If there is a relatively new food out there that makes its way to the US and it’s good for you, I’ll try it. All of these healthful foods are great and I hope these never go away!

  • tncanoeguy

    Don’t forget micro-brews and homebrewing. It’s been around for a while but micro-breweries are springing up like mushrooms in the spring. At least they are here in Nashville.

    • hellokitty0580

      Every hipster and their hipster friend is doing it in Brooklyn and Boston too.

      • tncanoeguy

        Does seem to be a hipster thing, although this non-hipster beer drinker is enjoying the trend.

    • skelly74

      Hmmm…mushroom brew…thanks for the idea!

  • johnhaskell


    • skelly74

      What about it?

  • geraldfnord

    Much of what is sold as ‘food’ were better named ‘entertainment’.

  • John Granahan

    RIP Good Eats, long live triple D!

  • skelly74

    To be clear: the soil will be shipped to a farm near you!

  • KayJay12

    This is soooooo revolting. Fat, getting fat and fatter, eat, eat, eat. “comfort” food! Disgusting! Food as entertainment, yuck!

  • Naomi

    I’m really enjoying this show! I’m a registered dietitian. I like to call this “recreational eating” on a broad spectrum from the healthy foods all the way to the outrageous concoctions. Great topic!

  • shayna99

    The way I eat has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. I went vegetarian 5 years ago, moved away from highly processed junk food to a mostly local, whole food diet. It’s got green smoothies, chia seeds, kale chips and other trendy things as part of it but it’s mostly about health and eating to feel good.

  • SuziVt

    In a word, VEGAN. Driven by compassion, a lifestyle for life. If there is a meat trend, you can bet it’s provided by corporate farms. There is NO compassion there! Please be responsible & think about some compassion. Don’t be a glutton!

    • Sy2502

      Thank you for your sanctimonious, judgmental, self righteous attitude, we sure needed it this morning.

      • manganbr

        and thank you for yours (get it?).

        • Sy2502

          You started. I didn’t come to this forum saying vegans are morons and idiots and they need to get a clue. But if you are going to be a jackass to those who don’t share your religious beliefs, expect to be called out for it.

          • manganbr

            Who me? I didn’t post the original comment. But I also don’t see where the original poster is calling people morons and idiots: I see you putting those words in his/her mouth and calling the poster a jackass.

          • Sy2502

            The poster implied everyone who isn’t a vegan lacks compassion and is a glutton. Yes, that qualifies as being a jackass to people who don’t share her religion.

          • SuziVt

            Do you often feel like people think of you as a moron? If so, that’s a pity. And who said anything about religion? You really do need to pay attention.

          • Sy2502

            Religion and veganism share enough traits to be in the same category for the current discussion.

          • SuziVt

            Says who…you? What about all of the vegans that are atheists & have zero religious beliefs, whatsoever?

          • Sy2502

            I mentioned common “traits”. Among them:
            - Belief of arbitrary values, often emotion based.
            - Belief to hold the only truth, also called “everybody else is wrong”.
            - Feelings of moral superiority.
            - Dishing out unrequested judgment and condemnations to make the believer feel better about themselves.
            - Tendency to proselytize, also called cramming it down people’s throats.

          • SuziVt

            Let’s see, how about we take your pet dog or cat, or a member of your family or you…& confine you/them to a cage not big enough to turn around in. Then perhaps a demented corporate farm worker decides to take one of your babies & fling it into the wall as hard as he can…for personal entertainment. Then after a life within those metal bars, designed to nearly wrap around your/their body (no wasted space), then get a rod stuck ‘up’ your backside to shock you so you are still alive, but are too stunned to struggle while they slit your throat & slap a giant hook into you & hoist you up. Sometimes, just for fun, you may be beaten before your throat is slit or even before you’re stunned with an electric shock. Meanwhile you/they watched & heard the screams of terror & pain as others had the same thing done before you/them. You/they NEVER received a moment’s pleasure in your entire life, only existing in a life devoid of all that is natural, as nature intended. I could go on with many examples, but you believe what you want to believe. You’re obviously threatened by any challenge to those beliefs. Because of that, I DO feel superior to you. I can’t help it, you convinced me. If you really want to be open minded, watch several of the videos on youtube among other sites. I did a couple of years ago & was convinced immediately. I’m now an animal rights activist. Yeah, I know, you’ll have a field day with that one. I would feel sorry for you, if you weren’t responsible for so much suffering in the world & working so hard to prove you’re right.

          • Sy2502

            You have made your own arbitrary definition of “compassionate” and think it applies to everybody else. It doesn’t. This is why I compare vegetarianism/veganism to a religion. You think to hold the revealed truth. You don’t. Deal with it.

      • SuziVt

        Perhaps you need to stop feeling so threatened by people that don’t share your beliefs. I most certainly do NOT believe everyone that isn’t a vegan lacks compassion & is a glutton. Members of my immediate family & my closest friends are not vegans, but they’re wonderful people & I love them dearly. However, they haven’t seen the horror that I have seen in the animal-for-food industry. They don’t want to hear about it & I try to respect their ‘sensitivity’. However, if you’re unaware of the facts & have not witnessed the suffering, it’s hard to appreciate the industry for what it is. I was merely stating that a particular meat trend would create such a great demand on that particular animal & that only factory farms could supply the vast numbers of those animals needed to be slaughtered. I was imploring people to
        consider this before jumping on board a fad that causes extreme suffering to innocent & defenseless animals. Furthermore, from the amount of meat portions I see at restaurants & remembering how much extra meat some people cook, lest anyone go without their 2nd & 3rd helpings, we DO live in a gluttonous society. Ordinarily I wouldn’t need to spell it out, but obviously I hit a sore spot with you. Chill!

        • Sy2502

          Do you or don’t you think people who aren’t vegan are less compassionate than you? Because that’s what came across with your original post.

          • SuziVt

            I think that people that have ‘witnessed’ the suffering & abuse of animals in the meat industry & ‘still’ eat meat are less compassionate. And no, I did not come across as saying non-vegans are less compassionate in my first post, or this one. Again, pay attention! I’ll refer you back to manganbr’s posts. He understood what I was saying. More than likely you will twist this post around also. I assume it’s what you do.

          • Sy2502

            Self-righteousness (also called sanctimoniousness, sententiousness, and holier-than-thou attitudes): feeling or display of (usually smug) moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.

            Yes you are sanctimonious and self righteous.

          • SuziVt

            paranoia (also referred to as insecurity): derangement with delusions of grandeur, persecution, etc.; abnormal tendency to suspect and mistrust others.

          • Sy2502

            Too bad it doesn’t apply. Your post on the other hand fits perfectly the definition of “sanctimonious”. I even made sure to ask you for confirmation and sure enough…

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            I took care of it.

          • Sy2502

            Yep. Good job!

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            You are a certified moron. If you had ANY sense at all, you would base your argument on the health benefits for those who adopt a more natural and vegetable based diet.

            NOT on the suffering of animals. You will achieve your goal faster, and does it really matter WHY people do it or THAT they do it?

            Perhaps your intelligence is suffering because you aren’t getting enough B12?

          • SuziVt

            You’re rude & in no position of calling ‘anyone’ a moron. I’m generally a polite person. I posted my opinion, which completely went over your head, as well. Then I was challenged, not for the context of what I wrote, but for an imagined threat to someone else. As for your advice on what ‘argument’ I should make. I am NOT a vegan for my health. Veganism is simply the acceptance that the human race has no right to exploit & cause suffering to any animal species. If you knew anything about being a vegan, you would already know that. Obviously, ignorance of any subject does not stop you from obnoxious criticism of others & the impulse to dictate what they should do.

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            But the ethical argument will NEVER EVER EVER E V E R convince the mainstream population. Therefore, You MUST NOT want everyone to be vegan. Therefore, you are lying about your true motives.

            Therefore, you want humanity to eat meat.

            Therefore, you are a liar.

            OR, you believe what you are saying, in which case you really are tragically ignorant AND arrogant. The WORST combination, in my opinion.

          • SuziVt

            Get over yourself! You’re crazy, I’m certain this isn’t the first time you’ve heard that. Leave me alone, I never even read the last half of your comment. This is only to tell you to cease from anymore communication with me or I’ll have to report you.

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            LOL!!!!!!!!!!! I can hear a pin drop in the space between your ears. That’s how empty and quiet it is in there!

            Take some Alpha Lipoic Acid.

          • Godzilla the Intellectual

            yes, YOU DID imply non-vegans are less compassionate!

            I agree with you that that the meat “industry” is nauseating.

            But some of us ONLY eat local, organic, grass fed, pasture raised, meats and have increased our intake of organic eggs, avocados, hemp protein, (in some cases natural dairy protein) , organic soy, etc.

            You are more ignorant than you realize.
            The “green meme” including the vegan and sustainable perspective, is still a “luxury” lifestyle.

            Not only do you have to be educated and informed to adopt such a lifestyle, which costs time and money to acquire such an education, for example so you eat enough probiotics and B12 in non-cyanocobalamin form (which is a poison)

            AND not only the education but the lifestyle itself costs significantly more than the standard American diet.

            There are health advantages in living this way, obviously, but expecting everyone to become a nutrition expert in order to be more “compassionate” is sanctimonious.

            I KNOW, because I AM sanctimonious.

    • KayJay12

      Thank you! I turned off my radio a few times last year because they had shows on shooting animals. I must admit I always expect better of folks on NPR! Shooting animas is not okay!

  • Sy2502

    I don’t mind trying new foods once, but I will only keep eating them if I like them, not because they are “trendy”.

  • manganbr

    Unfortunate that kale gets so politicized. At midwest farmers markets it’s everywhere, but also it’s just another leafy green on tables alongside spinach, swiss chard, and collards . . and no harder to cook well than any of these. As with a lot of advertising, overexposure annoys some people, turning away consumers who might otherwise enjoy an item if they didn’t feel alienated by a kind of social coercion. I’m never never going to see Anchor Man 2. It’s a life long vow now.

    • jefe68

      It’s not the kales fault….

      Have a few rows in the garden right now.

  • T.C.

    I have zero interest in this topic, but I listened anyway (because nothing better was on), and I’m glad I did. David Sax is a great interviewee. Congratulations on making a compelling hour of radio out of an unlikely topic.


    P.S. This is the first time I’ve used Disqus, and I must say that I do not like it — way too much hassle just to make a simple comment.

    • DaynaGuiguipyt

      as Thelma
      explained I cannot believe that a stay at home mom can make $7420 in four weeks
      on the internet . more info here R­e­x­1­0­.­C­O­M­

      • hennorama

        Please flag the spambot above.

  • karmajinpa

    I’m contacting you on behalf of a good friend who has written an excellent book on religious diversity in which she compares and contrasts Buddhist outlook with that of monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

    Titled: Religious Diversity: What’s the problem? This provocative book is based on the author’s longtime practice of Buddhism and comparative study of religion. In it Dr. Gross provides tools with which one can truly appreciate religious diversity as a gift and resource rather than as a
    deficiency or a problem to be overcome.

    Dr. Gross has studied all major world religions and has been active in religious dialog and interreligious exchange more than 40 years Widely known for groundbreaking work on feminism and gender in religious study, Dr. Gross is a popular speaker and teacher.

    Rita M. Gross is Professor Emerita of Comparative Studies of Religion at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Senior Dharma Teacher in the Nyingma Lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism. A past president of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, she has participated in many forums for interreligious exchange. Gross is the author of many books and articles. Her major work is Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist
    History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism(1993). Additionally, she is a frequent contributor to Tricycle, a premier Buddhist magazine.

    If you are interested in booking Dr. Gross, please contact her directly.

    Rita M. Gross, Ph.D

    126 Gilbert Avenue
    Eau Claire, WI 54701

  • Regular_Listener

    Ah food fads – at least they seem to be of higher quality now. I remember the craze for flavored popcorn – all sorts of wacky icings (or whatever you call them) poured over batches of popcorn. That didn’t last very long. I remember when everyone was mixing brewer’s yeast in with their orange juice (it really helped with my pimples btw). Buffalo-style chicken wings were big for a while. Some of them go thru a vogue period, but then stick around rather than disappearing – tofu is a good example.

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