Interview: How Home Cooking Trends Will Change Grocery & Restaurant Businesses
Chef Nicholas Morgenstern of the eponymous NYC ice cream parlor chats with PSFK about evolving preferences in the ways consumers buy, cook and consume food
Nicholas Morgenstern, founder and owner of Morgenstern’s—a new take on the traditional ice cream parlor—sat down with PSFK’s Piers Fawkes for our PurpleList podcast. In this excerpt, the pair discuss changes in how consumers view dining experiences and the associated food trends—and what the future holds for grocery stores and restaurants.
Nicholas: Consumers now think, “We’ll just go to the market. We’ll gather the ingredients, and we’ll cook that ourselves at home.”
People are really more comfortable (especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn) with being ‘domestic.’ When I moved to New York City in 2001, no one would ever invite anyone into their home, ever.
I went to someone’s home in the West Village the other day where their dining room table is their prep table, their kitchen is so small, and there were five of us there. Still, they were like, “Come over. We’re roasting this chicken, and we’re doing these special potatoes that are cooked in lardo.”
It was a great home meal. I think 10 or 15 years ago, they wouldn’t have been comfortable to do that, to say, “Come into our tiny little cramped kitchen.” But people now are more comfortable being domestic.
We’re now seeing a reaction to Blue Apron and similar products, which I think are hyper-wasteful and bogus.
The amount of packaging that you have to go thorough in order to get a dinner for two at home, it’s insanity. I’ve never ordered it myself, but I’ve been to people’s homes, and I think, “Look at how many freezer packs are in here, and look at how many boxes and bags.” Basically you have six ounces of fish, total, three ounces per person, six ounces of vegetables and maybe a little bit of mashed potato. It looked like the packaging for a VCR or something. It’s nuts. I don’t know how sustainable that is.
Piers: Let’s dive deeper into trends in food at home.
Nicholas: Whether you are a professional or an amateur home cook, the advent of being able to get food shipped to your door is a big change maker.
People are getting their basics brought direct to their doors so they can focus on going to the [retail] source for the specialty ingredients. So some people will go out and shop for their specialty Italian ingredients at an Italian importer or they will find the place online which ships direct.
Amazon’s going to take care of all of the basics. The specialty items are where people are going to take the time, and really splurge.
Connected to this is the fact that I see people getting to know what was considered luxury food and eating at home: eating caviar at home, drinking champagne at home. This isn’t only happening to luxury ingredients, but folks even know the difference between serrano and ibérico ham from Spain, they know what a mostarda is, they understand the different varieties of olives, and so on and so forth. That type of cooking is happening in the home.
The other thing that I’m seeing is people embracing the gadgetry at home—whether that’s people being interested in or curious about an app like Nest that can help you to get your home ready. I know people who are asking, “Can that thing turn on the oven for me?” and things like that.
Do you see yourself cooking at home like this?
I entertain at home probably four or six times a month, with friends and business, and it’s a pain for me to run around town and get all the stuff together.
In the midst of everything else that I have going on, I’m simultaneously placing orders to get the food and wine to my house so that I don’t have to run around like Mary Poppins all day long trying to make sure everything is there. It’s too difficult in the city.
You go home, and the boxes are sitting there with the things that you can get delivered to your house, and you’re like, “Great. This is easy. I didn’t need to go out to buy laundry detergent. It’s just at my door.”
What’s the knock-on effect on restaurant business?
Do people need to go to a restaurant to eat farm-to-table comfort food when they can cook it at home? They don’t need to go to these intimate little restaurants any more to have this little farm-to-table salad and pork belly. People know how to cook all of that at home.
I think I’m also seeing people that are willing to go out for the niche, highly-specialized experience like you find at Le Coucou, or a place like La Bernadin and even Hearth & Hound in LA, where it’s a very specific type of experience.
Morgenstern’s is a perfect example of that. You can’t do what I do at home. It’s just not possible. I think this is a big trend: people wanting to go to those places that are highly specialized and are very specific.