By Blair Chancey

Former White House Chef, Walter Scheib, says today’s best culinary trends are not isolated to fine-dining establishments and that quick-serve restaurants are great vehicles to bring the trends to American diners.

Schieb, keynote speaker at today’s 2007 Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show, told QSR, “If you really want to see a shift in how America dines in both nutritional content as well as thematic, you can really see the changes when they sift their way down to the quick-serves.

“It starts out in a top-level restaurant and slowly but surely, as trends catch on, they’ll move through to quick-service—particularly the nutritional and ethnic food now are really reflected in those restaurants,” he says.

Both Schieb, who was the White House’s executive chef for both the Clinton and Bush administrations, and Ferdinand Metz, president of the World Federation of Chefs, say they predict ethnic influences to be the hottest trend for restaurants in the upcoming year.

Metz pointed to Latino and Caribbean flavors specifically as the trend’s front runners.

In addition to more adventurous menu offerings, both chefs predict nutrition will continue to play a major role in quick-serve menu developments.

“It has to be totally fresh and not spoiled, it has to be nutritional,” Scheib says. “You don’t put extra fat, you try to find more ways to put extra fruit, reduce portion size. I know that’s heresy in some of the quick-serves.”

Although Scheib and Metz have worked for decades in the fine-dining world, both agree that white tablecloth establishments are not all that different from quick-serve restaurants.

“In general, anyone who is serving food to anyone regardless of the setting and ambiance, they have a fundamental responsibility,” Scheib says. “There are few things that are more personal than consuming food.”

The 2007 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show runs today through Sunday in Orlando, Florida and is sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.