How Culinary is Inspiring a New U.S. Migration Food Rush: The Gold Rush of our Era

For the Connoisseur, food has always been a hot commodity, but now it’s becoming the cornerstone for developer’s dreams.  You can tell that healthy eating, choosing better quality and more obscure foods has generated a wave in the U.S. and has become the new cool factor to many communities.  Foodies are shaping the culture of small cities and suburban America. Don’t be shocked when your city is invaded by the type of residents or visitors that are simply there to enjoy the pleasures of eating. These folks are now building complete lifestyles around the idea of living where they eat, or traveling distances to receive great quality and great experiences.  It’s obvious that a shift has occurred because people are no longer traveling to the big cities to get the best and finest food. Emerging chefs, small-town movement, and the farm to table/locally produced culinary scene are major factors in the new Food Rush migration.

Custom Roads, April 2017

The Food Rush is all about creating a buzz around who is making all the delicious cuisines and where they are doing it at! The ‘who’ and the ‘where’ for a foodie is key! The smaller the town the bigger the following it seems, to create your community.  There is low to no competition from existing restaurants (unless there is a signature place in the area, that is a town’s staple.  Typically, food is just the bonus to bustling cities like New Orleans and New York where you would expect to see great restaurants to compliment the amazing experience, however Food is now taking the lead and being a major attraction.   And if roughly there are  40 million Millennials in America who claim to be “foodies” according to research by BBDO this market is only growing or should I call them GEN YUM, as NPR contributor Eva Throw describes them in her book “A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food.

A recently added documentary on Netflix, Foodies: The Culinary Jetset highlights a few popular foodies globetrotting for their gastronomic adventures. If you are unfamiliar with ‘Foodies’ used in this way, Webster’s defines Foodies as “a person having an interest in the latest food fads”. However, I prefer the extended definition found on Wikipedia: “A foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.  A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.”  If you eat for fuel let’s just say you would not relate to these people.  I define foodies the way in which the documentary highlight it as a subculture of people who go to high measures to have the best culinary experience usually to appease and/or excite all five senses.  As restaurateurs and even real estate developers it is in your best interest to understand this term, because they are the consumers who are pushing the food scene to new heights.  Maybe not everyone who moved to Austin is chasing a Michelin Star status for their restaurant but on a local level, chefs are becoming Rockstars in their own right and their restaurants are their stage.

The next contributor to this food phenomenon are the Chefs are creating a fan base and developing a following that is creating a ripple effect in the adjacent industries and on the cities and towns’ value.  Below is a example created to demonstrate only how chefs are acquiring this status for themselves and becoming the hero for their town:

Unknown Sous Chef works in Big City X as an apprentice under a renowned chef (typically traditional style). Unknown chef creates amazing dishes however, 1. It cannot be used at current restaurant it’s too modern or of a different style of cuisine 2. They are using Unknown Sous Chef’s master pieces but they have to be labeled as a creation of the restaurant so he/she remains unknown, hence the dilemma.  The Unknown Sous Chef moves far away from the Big City (or to another city) and the well-known restaurant to start something his/her own where they can create food they feel connected to and express their specialty and art form.  They usually have more time to experiment at this phase there is no crowds of people they can switch up menus do things more “dangerous”.  They are no longer playing it safe, this is how the buzz begins.  Food writers, bloggers, and professional foodies “discover” the former unknown sous chef and his/her restaurant and come to review their portfolio aka menu.  If all goes well and the rating and reviews are being more widely publish on a commercial level, the chef is an overnight success story.

Though this seems like a very typical story for most emerging chefs, just check any chef highlighted in the Netflix Original Series Chef’s Table. There are many factors that are part of today’s generation that affect the speed at which this “nothing to something” effect is happening, and one major part is played by social media.  Unknown chefs, or creatorsin their own rights, can share with the world their art, their product and connect with others near and far about what they are doing.  The real savvy ones are more engaging and invite and challenge people from the big cities who would traditional eat at the upscale restaurants to come and try the experience of local cuisines they are highlighting.

The food movement, like most trends start low income neighborhood, and causing a domino effect on the community. It is my prediction that eventually the artisanal bakery will follow, then the international coffee shops, beer gardens, yoga studios and craft cocktail bars!

Prerequisites for creating a Food Town

  1. Affordable Real Estate
  2. Funky/Quirky Neighborhood
  3. Access to Farmers and Local Raised and Grown Food for Cheap

Adventurous Chef

CityLab, March 2016
  • The affordability of the town/city makes a big difference on who follow the trendy chefs and lead a movement to the outskirts and makes it easy for relocation of millennials to follow suit.  I am sure in each case it can vary if this influx is saving or hurting the culture of the small towns.  Whether making the town more attractive for development, can lead to hire property value but,   bring in more business and even tourism due to the buzz generated, which can create more jobs for residents and increase local economics.  Here is a few key factors to be on a look out for if you are living in a town that may be undergoing a Food Rush:Are there Food Festivals and/or area of Food Trucks?
  • Bar Scene – Is there a Craft Cocktail bar scene with obscure mixes and liquors?
  • Has the Neighborhood gone from Bad to Cool?
  • At least one local/transplant chef has a James Beard Award?
  • Has the rent doubled for both commercial and residential?

If you answered Yes, to all of these questions, then it is quite possible you may wake up witnessing the next Food Rush in your city.  According the National Restaurant Association, more Americans are spending more money on food eating out than money spent on groceries, therefore, it only makes sense that relocating to cities with a good food scene is factor when deciding where to live. Top Cites in U.S. for food excluding the major cities from a combination of travel, food, major and local news.  They all have same conclusion on what city is HOT right now, however, the cities to track are the ones that vary on each list or mixed in with the me more well-known ones listed below:

More Well Known

  • Santé Fe, NM
  • Charleston, NC
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • San Antonino, TX
  • Detroit, MI
  • Austin, TX

Developing

  • Catskills, NY
  • Ashville, NC
  • Healdsburg, CA
  • Traverse City, AL
  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Portland, ME
Trip Hobo, Nov 2016

Small town America is growing and that’s a fact, foodies have anything to do with it, the world will all be much smaller, because in a good food city you can have access to the best quality of life and authentic roti, pad thai, ramen and even ceviche.  Uniting people over great culinary experiences one city at a time.  However, the result of this influx to these more affordable suburbs and/or low income small cities may now be the next breeding grounds for the next cultural revolution.  I would encourage the developers, chefs, and foodies to be mindful of the local community and be engaged.  Learning about the local culture and town and how to celebrate it through cuisine and great way to connect with current inhabitants.  The Food Rush may be a factor for their move, but what they all are in search for is a better quality of life and opportunity.  I hope that quality food, good service, and diverse culinary options can become the equalizer.

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