Each year we are exposed to new culinary trends. For 2015 the theme remains the same – fresh, local, healthful dishes continue to take center stage. Special diets are becoming more and more prevalent and every year comes a few hot new items such as the Ramen Burger, Umami and Biscuits (this year’s pretzel bun.) Join us in 2015 by focusing your eating efforts on local, seasonal and healthy meals!

shutterstock_147773327No. 1: Local Sourcing

“This generation is the food-savviest generation ever,” Wood says. “People want to know where their food is coming from.” This desire is what’s behind the consumer-fueled farm-to-table trend that’s showing up with more frequency on catering menus. To ensure kitchens can produce the volume of food needed with seasonal, local ingredients, smart venues and chefs are forging relationships with local farms and working with the farmers to decide what will be planted so they can plan their menus in advance.

A side benefit of using locally sourced food is that it reduces the need for transportation, which reduces the event’s carbon footprint. Trendsetters are going niche with this trend too, focusing on locally crafted cheeses, beers, wines, ciders — even things that may be foraged from the wild.

No. 2: Vegetarian dishes

“Did you know that 50 percent of all Americans have at least one meatless meal a week,” Wood asks. That percentage rises when you consider international attendees. That’s why savvy planners need at least one vegetarian option at every meal function.

This trend is also a nod to the health and well-being of attendees, since more than 35 percent of Americans are medically obese. Serving vegetarian food doesn’t have to be boring, either. For ideas, look to international cuisine, raw-food blogs and vegan restaurants.

No. 3: Gluten-free dishes

Gluten-free is huge in catering, Wood says. Instead of wheat, barley, rye and spelt, chefs are using ancient grains like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. These grains are more nutritious than wheat-based flours and more interesting than a rice pilaf. Pasta noodles can be made from buckwheat, rice, quinoa, corn or even julienned vegetables like zucchini.

20140208-_MGL2440No. 4: Ice cream combos in gourmet flavors

Wood predicts that attendees will start seeing more liquid nitrogen ice cream stations at event. “The freezing process makes it possible to create custom desserts in 90 seconds,” he says.

Sriracha bourbon swirl, anyone?

No. 5: Upscale comfort food

The uncertain economy means people are still in the mood for comfort food, but with a sophisticated twist. “Think macaroni and cheese, but served Italian-style with sautéed salami, garlic, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and basil,” Wood says. Whatever you do, please don’t serve mashed potatoes in a martini glass. That trend is still dead.

shutterstock_191039084No. 6: Mash-up dishes

“Ever heard of dessert pizza?” Wood asks. Think coconut, chocolate and strawberry with fresh mint on a savory cracker crust. Another mash-up combination he’s seeing is a variation on the slider. Instead of bread, cheeseburgers are served on grilled ramen noodle buns.

No. 7: Umami

We all know about the common flavors our taste buds pick up: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, but don’t forget about the “umami” factor. ”The best way I can describe it is as a meaty flavor,” Wood says. Examples include soy sauce and ketchup. It’s a taste you can add to beef, sauces and soups.

No. 8: Biscuits

“Move over pretzel rolls, croissants and buns,” he says. Biscuits are the new “it” ingredient in comfort food trends. Wood predicts that biscuits will be 2015′s most popular handheld food container for miniature passed sandwiches, salads, apps and more.

Now if you can make them gluten-free, then you’ll have two hot trends in one.