People talk about dining trends going in cycles, but a more accurate description would be a pendulum. As tastes shift in one direction, many new restaurants try to establish themselves in that mold while older established restaurants revamp their menus in order to catch the wave. As this new trend becomes all the rage, some restaurant owners and chefs recognize the need to do something different in order to stand out. Eventually that new trend catches on and the pendulum swings the other way. While Latin fusion food is certainly not something "trendy", it is lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time as people's preferences are starting to change.
One reason for this change is that people are looking for something more original. Casual fine dining and family friendly restaurants have been monopolized as of late by a few national chains, all of which offer surprisingly similar menu selections. Add to that the same decorating patterns each seems to employ and locations usually within a few hundred yards of one another and it can be easy to forget just which restaurant you are in.
Latin fusion restaurants buck that trend by being independently owned and chef-centric. Although many of these restaurants share particular ingredients, sauces and spices, this is to be expected because they are the staple flavors of the authentic cooking the chefs grew up with. However, each chef is free to explore new ways to use these traditional flavors with new styles of preparation and presentation, leading to each restaurant having its own identity.
The other reason they have become popular is because people are more concerned now with how well they are eating. All the news about genetically modified foods and excessive use of preservatives is making people cautious. Even if they are not going so far as to become locavores - focused only on eating food from within a certain distance of the restaurant and grown following sustainable farming practices - they still want to search out fresher ingredients.
Once again, without trying to be, Latin fusion restaurants are a leading example of this movement. They rely almost exclusively on fresh ingredients, some so much so that they do not even have a freezer. In order to make sure their food is the freshest they inevitably rely on local vendors for their supplies, making them a de facto farm to table restaurant.
Of course, there is still one more reason - some would say the most important reason - that these Latin fusion restaurants have become so popular, and it has nothing to do with a pushback against the monotony of national chains or a desire to focus on only eating fresh. It is because the food is just that darn good!
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has spent more than 20 years covering the food and beverage industry. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com