Paul Bocuse, celebrity French chef, was sitting at Max au Triangle restaurant in Beverly Hills wiping his plate squeaky clean with a piece of French bread, the way cops do in French films. The last dribbles of sauce happened to be Joachim B. Splichal's superbly delicate beurre blanc with truffles. The contradiction of styles was entertaining: Bocuse was saying nouvelle cuisine was dead while sopping up the sauce that is nouvelle cuisine's signature. Traditional cooking--"that's the new trend," he said. "First there was the epoch of the rutabaga," Bocuse continued, "then the epoch of the vegetable puree, next the kiwi and now is the epoch of bones. Bones are extremely important to traditional cooking. They add flavor, you know."
Perhaps he's right about traditional cooking taking over. Bones haven't quite made it to the West Coast but undoubtedly will arrive, as other things have. Remember raspberry vinegar?
So what's next? What's the next big food trend on the West Coast? The question was put to some of the experts. You may not agree with any of the answers, but neither was there any agreement among those we asked. And they are some of the top chefs and restaurateurs in California (many of whom you'll spot in the group pictured on the previous pages). Michael Roberts, Trumps, West Hollywood (American)
" My guess is that Vietnamese food will be big but short-lived. Oriental food is a favorite, and the grazing phenomenon, which will last for a long time, has already hit. Vietnamese is an extension of grazing--ordering a little of a lot of things." Patrick Terrail, (owner of the now-closed Ma Maison), West Hollywood (French)
"If I knew what it was, I would change my profession to soothsayer and make a million. I hope it will be quality dining. I think people will tire of noisy restaurants and coffee shops that pass for elegant dining. They'll go back to traditional dining." John Sedlar, St. Estephe, Manhattan Beach (American Southwest-French)
"Mexican will be big. Anything to do with Latin American food will probably do very well. But keep an eye on Mexico City cooking, which integrates French and Mexican cuisines. Homogenization of cuisines is not a negative. It's a positive." Evan Kleiman, Angeli, West Hollywood (Italian)
"Simplicity. We've seen that in Los Angeles restaurants that are offering good quality at lower prices. It's definitely happening in Italian ones, and pretty soon we'll see it among the French." Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Border Grill/City Restaurant, West Hollywood (Mexican)
"We don't know what the next trend will be. We only know what we're doing. We cook what we like to eat ourselves--ethnic dishes with strong, bold flavors. " Bernard Jacoupy, Bernard's, Biltmore Hotel, downtown Los Angeles (French)
"Within two or three years we will start looking for intimate seven-to 14-table restaurants where the specialty of the chef is the thing. Style of food will be more authentic. Cuisines will reaffirm themselves." Michael McCarty, Michael's, Santa Monica (French - California)
"Today, the No. 1 concern is health--cutting back on food and alcohol. In San Francisco there is a thing called 'small plates.' A dozen items, six bites each. If you need seven or eight you're a glutton." Ken Frank, La Toque, West Hollywood (American-French)
"I'm not sure. Everybody's talking about breakfast, but I think they're talking about breakfast because they're talking about breakfast, if you know what I mean. Me? I'm not talking about breakfast." Piero Selvaggio, Primi / Valentino, West Los Angeles (Italian)
"I'm doing it. I believe offering a variety of many little portions and exciting tastes will be the trend." Roy Yamaguchi, 385 North, West Hollywood (Japanese - French - American)
"It's sad to say, but the next big trend will be whatever people make money on. Cajun came on very strong. It's good food, but people were doing it because they would make money on it. The trend is toward a party atmosphere where the food is good at reasonable prices." Patrick Jamon, Les Anges, Santa Monica (French)
"Diet. I believe that in six months to a year, we will have some very good-looking diet foods." Laurent Quenioux, Seventh Street Bistro, downtown Los Angeles (French)
"In France you get good food at reasonable prices at any ordinary cafe or bistro. I think good food will be everywhere here, too." Sandi Tang, Tommy Tang's Siamese Cafe, West Hollywood (Thai)
"Is there anything left? Off the top of my head, Indonesian will be big. It's already starting in New York and San Francisco." Celestino Drago, Celestino Ristorante, Beverly Hills (Italian)