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The future of food: Francisco Migoya

Categories: Reflections and opinions

From new technology to the next big trends: in an exclusive series of interviews for Borough Market Daniel Tapper asks some of the world’s most respected experts to foresee the future of food

Francisco Migoya is co-author of Modernist Bread. Spanning five volumes, the book combines practical bread-making knowledge with groundbreaking techniques and 1,500 recipes (published 7th November).

What is the number one food issue facing humanity?
The global population is growing exponentially, meaning there are going to be billions more people to feed in the very near future. Therefore, the principle challenge we are going to face is providing enough nutritious and sustainably produced food. While it’s very easy for people in countries like the US and UK to insist on responsibly sourced, small-batch produce, this simply won’t be an option for many people, especially those in the developing world.

What scares you most about the future of food?
Many of the plants and animals we are currently used to eating could easily disappear as a result of disease or climate change. We are already beginning to see this happen and yet governments appear to be doing very little about it. For example, there is currently a global shortage of bananas, partly because we insist on cultivating just one variety, the cavendish, which isn’t particularly resistant to disease. I find it a scary proposition that something as ubiquitous as a banana could vanish so easily.

And what are you most excited about?
I am definitely seeing more and more people who are trying to understand food and drink on a deeper level. This is partly because there is so much free information at our fingertips. But it’s also because we have access to more cuisines than ever before. The amazing access we have to world ingredients, dishes and flavours is something we should all be immensely grateful for.

What new ingredients do you think we’ll embrace?
In my opinion, it’s perfectly fine to eat meat. But if we are to reduce the effect of meat production on the environment then we need to start consuming it in far smaller quantities. The only way we are going to be able to do this is by embracing alternative sources of protein. So I think we are going to start seeing a lot more plant-based dishes on our menus. Insects may also become more popular. I grew up in Mexico City where eating grasshoppers was not considered weird. I don’t see why this shouldn’t happen here.

What scenario is more likely: the West goes meat-free or gives-up alcohol?
A growing number of families across the US—including mine —are cutting down the amount of meat they eat by adopting meat-free Mondays. However, I haven’t noticed people cutting-down on alcohol. Frankly, I don’t see how drinking responsibly is a problem. 

Which of the two scenarios would be most beneficial and why?
As much as it hurts me to say, I think the most beneficial thing to do would be to become a vegetarian. The problem is that it would mean putting my ethics before my stomach, which is tough because meat is so delicious. The answer of course is moderation because extremes simply aren’t sustainable. This is one of the reasons almost all diets fail; if you give up pasta today, I guarantee you’ll eat it again later.

Are there any technological innovations that will soon revolutionise the way we eat, cook or produce food?
I think the biggest changes we’re going to see will be in grocery stores. There’s an Amazon supermarket in downtown Seattle now where nobody works. You just walk in, serve yourself using a mobile app and then walk out. It’s that simple. You don’t even have to talk to a single person. It’s going to be interesting to see how this evolves.

Will the average Western diet be less or more healthy in 10 years’ time?
We’re going to be healthier. Consumers are more knowledgeable about food than ever before and many are becoming very critical of big name fast-food chains. This is why we’re seeing the rise of higher-end restaurant chains, like Shake Shack, that make an effort to source responsibly. Essentially, people are starting to realise that a one-dollar hamburger is cheap for a reason.

Picture yourself in a restaurant 100 years from now—how has eating-out changed?
I hate to say it but I think there will be very little human interaction. The problem with restaurants is that you have very narrow profit margins and some of the highest costs are associated with labour. If restaurants can automate their service then they’re going to be able to save a lot of money. I definitely see this approach taking off in large-scale restaurant chains.