Aspic & Day Glo Cherries
Chefs are beginning to backtrack to the 70s. Those in the know are starting afresh, tapping into 70s-themed nostalgia but with better quality and majorly tastier food. This exciting notion has been filtered from wider industries, especially the 70s fashion trend of the moment that’s been on Fashion Editor’s radars for three seasons now. LA Clothing brand Reformation’s tagline puts the aesthetic of the trend just perfectly, “Easy linens: loose and natural like your parents in the 70s.” The future food comeback of the 70s is all about playful, 70s-inspired concepts, bringing loved ones round the dining table via niche and rather eccentric food and drink.
The New York Times recently wrote an article on the poignancy of the era’s food culture, which saw, “peculiar optimism, encased in gelatin and smothered in mayonnaise.” The UK’s Stylist Magazine has noted, “Retro food is having a moment in culinary circles right now, as gourmands and trend-setters delve into the past to breathe fresh life into timeworn classics.”  New research by Whitby Seafoods revealed nearly half of Brits would love to be presented with fabulous 70s food at a dinner party. Rep Laura Whittle explains, “There is a lot of seventies-style nostalgia around. It was an era when interesting new foods were introduced to the nation for the first time and so we remember many of those with fondness.”  The uber current digi world of Tumblr has also created, ‘A walk through the 1971 Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library,’ which sees a visual delight of the infamous brand’s epic 70s recipes. And meanwhile food centers from Delis to pop-ups and everything in between, are taking on the 70s vibe, within food, decor and more with full momentum.
So what are the comeback foods of the 1970s?
Jello played a key role in 70s’ cuisine. This gelatinous dessert took center stage at almost all social occasions from family gatherings to top chef’s tables. When creating this humble sweet, the core ingredient is of course gelatin, which when dissolved in hot liquid transforms fruit, juices and sugar into a tasty, wobbling phenomenon contributing a sugar rush like no other. What was on offer varied hugely in sophistication from instant jello mix or cubes to intricate molds filled with exotic fresh fruits.
This moves us on perfectly to Aspic. Also crucial to those-in-the-know’s 70s’ dining table, this is where the key element of jello gets really imaginative and when budding chefs got the chance to flex their creative, albeit simple, cooking skills. Aspic is essentially a savoury form of jello, where the ingredients are set into a gelatin made from a meat or fish stock or consommé, originally used to stop air and bacteria from reaching the produce. These ingredients in question can vary from chopped veg to charcuterie and even boiled eggs. While it doesn’t sound the most appetising of dishes, it really was seen as one of the most important if you were to be welcomed as middle to upper class. The Guardian notes, while not coming back in full swing due to the glorious oddity of the concept, Aspic has recently been having its moment, again, in the form of Oeufs en gelée. This is a French bistro classic of poached eggs in aspic and as opposed to serving as a first course, it’s cropping up as kitch hor d’oeuvres via some of the biggest chefs such as British chef, restaurateur and journalist Rowley Leigh.
On a more futuristic note, jello is being reinterpreted in uber inventive ways by the UK’s top futuristic foodies Bompass & Parr. These two creatives, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr are innovators within flavour-based experience design, culinary research, architectural installations and contemporary food design. Their award-winning jello projects include jello sculptures and installations, an architectural jello banquet and even a jello-dedicated cookbook.
Frozen food was in its prime in the 70s. It was all about extreme convenience as foods were pre-prepared. Take note of Trends on Trends’ Future of Convenience Food forecast shoot, which envelops this theme entirely, giving you pointers on how to expect the trend to move forward. The idea of frozen food was revolutionary for the bygone housewife of the 60s whose primary role was to chop, peel and prep for the family on a daily basis. Frozen ingredients came loose like in a candy store where customers could ‘pick and mix,’ and pay for items in grams. Soon enough, consumers began to forget about seasonal foods as the process of freezing made produce available all year round. This transformed the way they ate, the meals they created and the foods they dined on. In the UK, households spent a mammoth £165 million on frozen food in 1971, over £2 billion in today’s money. And sales went up an average of 20% throughout the decade. 
Today, frozen food is being newly represented. Advancements in freezer equipment technology have given flavourless, discoloured and lifeless frozen ingredients of the past a most welcomed makeover. Looking to the future, unexpected produce that we once thought were unable to go through such processes are going to continue to get that exact treatment. As UK supermarket Waitrose note, “Pre-chopped convenience packs of frozen fruit are now more popular than frozen pizzas in Waitrose.”  This way of consuming has been boosted by the juicing trend, as more Britons leading hectic lifestyles are buying personal blenders to increase their nutrient intake.
As Trends on Trends noted in ‘Frozen food takes it up a notch,’ our trusted farmers and chefs are adding one more step to the farm-to-table motto — farm-to-freezer-to-table. Now, consumers can get organic frozen produce, sustainable frozen meats and fish and fresh/ frozen selects of the season delivered right to their door. Take Roberta’s Pizza as a prime example – they have created a frozen pizza like no other that truly grasps the mouth-watering woodfire taste that consumers have learned to love.
That hazy fog you see in that 70s’ show is clearly not a dusty basement as you might have imagined as a kid, but a cloud of cannabis. Since becoming legal in Colorado, Oregon and Washington and more the craving for cannabis-laced edibles is on the rise. The smoking trend of the 70s is beginning to set alight the food industry via these inventions, think cannabis coffee and weed bonbons. As the NY Times explain, “In states where pot has been legalized, demand for pot edibles has exploded, leading to a stunning assortment of mints, gummy candies and savory snacks infused with THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana.”  Meanwhile Chicago-based pastry chef Mindy Segal has launched her own product line as she wants to give back “to those suffering from chronic conditions by reinventing the marijuana-infused sweets industry.” The Luck Pot Dinner is also tapping into this trend via their San Francisco-based pop-up ‘The Luck Pot.’ The team describe their evenings as, “a special, intimate dinner event created to bring together like-minded “Adult Users” of Medical Marijuana in a casual setting, enjoying high-quality dinner and drinks, paired with curated “intermezzos” of approved cannabis treats.”  Similarly in New York, Sinsemil.la is the “first marijuana experience dedicated to fine dining.” As it states on their site, “Marijuana varietals are tested not just for their organic qualities, but specifically to balance the flavors of each dish and for their psychoactive properties throughout the flow of the dinner. Sinsemil.la isn’t about getting high — it is about haute cuisine.” 
Innovative restaurant design is beginning to look to the 70s for inspiration, particularly from the iconic Lunch Counter. Although Lunch Counters originated in the 60s, they came to prominence in the 70s filling food haunts all over Southern United States, quickly spreading to the UK and Europe. Derived from a combination of both the chef’s counter and old school Lunch Counters, this style of seating is now popping up as a design feature in a wide array of top restaurants around the world. The new fast-casual trend, ‘Future of Convenience Food,’ that Trends on Trends explored last month, is coming to life because of the demand from diners to have something quick and delicious. The Lunch Counter format is the perfect design option for this new fast-casual craze that’s set to become mainstream in the next five years.
Little Goat Diner, Chicago
Chef Stephanie Izard’s diner offers a huge menu of creative, gourmet takes on comfort food classics via hugely long tables resembling the original Lunch Counter aesthetic.
Diner, New York
The “Hip all-American Diner in NYC’s Meatpacking District,” comes closest to the original Lunch Counter design, with high chairs looking directly over the food prep area and bar.
Rose & Sons, Toronto
“Redefining Counter Culture,” Rose & Son’s Lunch Counters and booths are constantly filled with hungry diners indulging in chef Anthony Rose’s ultimate comfort food.
Cassell’s Burgers, Los Angeles
An iconic burger joint within the Hotel Normandie, Cassell’s boasts two large wooden Lunch Counters where customers overlook talented burger flippers do their thing. Also featured in our Die Around guide for The LINE Hotel.
A tiny, grungy venue, 27 stools, a popcorn machine and an innovative, American-Italian menu (black-edged pizzetta, kholrabi salad and dinky sliders) is all Spuntino needs to delight its lucky guests.
Winsome, Los Angeles
Thoughtful design by Wendy Haworth and a comforting menu by chef Jeremy Strubel are actualized in this Echo Park reincarnation of what a classic lunch counter would look like today.
Food Halls – in addition to restaurants, a host of recently opened food halls are turning into mini Lunch Counters, just take a look at Egg Slut at Grand Central Market in LA for inspiration.
The 70s throwback trend is quickly filtering into other industries, especially when it comes to cocktails. Innovativity knows no bounds here as mixologists create nostalgic drinks mixed with a touch of contemporary in surroundings that scream 1970s. According to a report by the Innovation Group from ad agency J Walter Thompson, “Millennials Want to Drink Cocktails That Their Parents Liked in the 70s,” proving the theme is set to be big amongst young generations with the biggest (trillion-dollar) spending power. Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director at the Innovation Group, tells Harper’s UK that although young people and consumers in general have increasingly sophisticated palates relative to previous generations, they are also “unapologetically celebrating the synthetic hues of retro ingredients such as crème de menthe and blue curaçao.”  Take a look at these prime examples:
The King of Ladies Man, London
A shady launderette welcomes Londoners into this 70s-inspired cocktail lounge where “Disco Drinks,” including Tequila Sunrises are served alongside retro cheese toasties.
Hotel Pulitzer, Buenos Aires
Hotel Pulitzer’s Cocktail Bar transports customers to a New Yorker club of the 70s, while staff mix classic and 70s-inspired drinks to the rhythm of tango, bossanova or soul.
Panther Milk Bar, Glasgow, UK
Glasgow, Scotland is home to Panther Milk Bar, that’s gained a cult following amongst young generations by serving the iconic 70s cocktail Leche de Pantera, a sweet, gin-based cocktail originating from Spain.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, Hollywood
From the decor to the branding, it doesn’t get more retro 70s than Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. This award-winning joint serves up cocktails and sides that include the ‘Tiny Dancer,’ and the ‘“Not” So Durty Hot Dog’.
The 70s theme is now being incorporated into the interior design of many an eatery.
Restaurants with 70s style decors have been slowly making their mark around the globe. There’s a general consensus within these new 70s style restaurant features in that teams are creating a dining experience that is meant to feel like home rather than the workplace, since the 70s were all about entertaining within the home due to high costs elsewhere. Going to a restaurant nowadays is all about feeling that personal connection with the chef, in a way that you’re a guest in their home, which signifies another movement within the future of restaurant design.
Cherry Circle Room, Chicago
70s Art Deco references fill Cherry Circle Room’s decor with high ceilings, dark woodwork and beams and intricate lighting.
Bar Luce Milan
Designed by film director Wes Anderson, Bar Luce recreates the atmosphere of a typical Milanese cafè with 70s inspired booths, counters and retro speckled flooring.
Food, art and music haunt Sketch has one of the most unique interiors in London – color-themed rooms take direct notes from the 70s, while the brilliant egg-shaped cubicles take this notion to the extremes.
This 140-seat restaurant has oodles of vintage 70s style, while providing global cuisines to Munich’s coolest customers.
Éclectic’s decor is all about the 70s lighting. Pendant lights in a pyramid shape and bowl shades dimly light up the room, while the menu branding uses a font reminiscent of the iconic 70s nightclub Studio 54.
70s style wallpaper adorns the walls of Menza, Budapest’s go-to for a versatile menu that offers culinary delights from Hungarian veal stew to Wagyu Burgers.
Delicatessens, Appetizing, and Bagel Stores:
Aside from restaurants, Delicatessens are also taking pointers from the retro 70s food movement.
Sadelle’s, New York
Smoked fish, housemade bagels and other Jewish appetizing fare are offered in a buzzing, vintage 70s style setting.
Black Seed Bagels, New York
Using traditional bagel baking and artisanal ingredients, a combined Montreal and New York vibe runs through this inimitable 70s-esque eatery.
Louis Pretty, Berlin
Restaurateur trio Oskar Melzer, James Ardinast and David Ardinast’s (from Stanley Diamond and Maxie Eisen in Frankfurt) newest spot is a Jewish delight, offering the classics in an especially elegant 70s-style setting.
Kenny & Zuke’s, Portland
High-end non kosher Delicatessen and bagel store Kenny & Zuke’s provides traditional artisan foods in a humble 70s environment.
Monty’s Deli, London
Monty’s Deli offers up delicious Salt Beef, Pastrami, and other Jewish classics from a South London railway arch near Tower Bridge.
Whether a chef, restaurateur, brand or customer, it’s time to start thinking about the 70s food and drink movement and its future prominence within not only these industries but in wider fields too (note how the fashion industry has already had an influx of the trend)
Take inspiration from this deliciously nostalgic theme and those ahead of the game who are already rocking it in their own, original and totally brilliant way
Apply it to your business model in the most innovative ways possible – from interiors to the food and drink itself, let the eclectic 70s vibe shine through in all you do
Be aware that this trend is routed in younger generations who are shaping the future food world (they outspend other generations on restaurants and are forking over $96 billion a year on food)
Final note: don’t underestimate the power of tapping into these forecasts. While we all know creatives like to think outside the box and not necessarily follow trends, these are here to help you build the vision you need to continue your creative journey, while adapting the trend in your own special way. We expect the 70s to be huge in 2016 and beyond, just how will you interpret it? We can’t wait to see.
Lovely words and research by: Lara Piras in collaboration with Trends on Trends
Gorgeous illustrations by: Erika DaSilva
Header font illustration: Emily Chen