25 key moments in food

How has the landscape of food changed in the last 25 years? From sushi to salted caramel, we take a tasty trip down memory lane...

25 key moments in food

To mark our birthday, here’s our list of the 25 game-changers – the people, places and trends - that have shaken up the way we cook, eat and talk about food in the past quarter century...


1. The cupcakeCupcakes

The most hyped baking trend of the past 25 years, this over-the-top confection emerged in the Nineties from the New York baking scene, home to the Magnolia Bakery. After featuring in Sex and the City, cupcakes became mainstays at all-girl get-togethers, from engagement parties to baby showers.

Can't get enough of cupcakes? Give our favourite a try.

2. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Posh Hugh sold us a grow-your-own country dream, plus rustic recipes with his River Cottage TV series in 1999, gradually introducing powerful campaigns for better animal welfare and sustainable sourcing. He combines ethical food policies with good-life idealism, making us all consider where our food comes from and how it’s been produced.

Chorizo recipes3. Chorizo

Spanish food wasn’t really on our home cooking radar 25 years ago, but it emerged as part of the appreciation of artisan produce, the influence of Moro restaurant in London, and our willingness to experiment with different flavours. 

From soups and salad to burgers and breakfasts - try new ways with chorizo.


4. The recession

This was an opportunity for quick-thinking food lovers, who started small-scale enterprises – from bread shops and baking businesses to microbreweries, and used empty shops as pop-up restaurants. The downturn also saw the expansion of discount stores like Aldi and Lidl, which wooed thrifty shoppers away from the ‘big four’ supermarkets – and won awards for their food and drink too.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves - our budget and everyday recipes and tips will help you reduce food waste and save money.


5. Heston

He opened his groundbreaking The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, in 1995 – it has three Michelin stars and is regularly voted the best restaurant in the world. His fanciful food creations make us rethink familiar combinations – Bacon & egg ice cream anyone? – or offer a visual surprise, like his best-selling Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding. He’s questioned the science of cooking, to the extent that many chefs now cook meat at lower temperatures for a more succulent result, and sous vide machines and meat thermometers have become kitchen must-haves for budding home chefs.

6. The River Café

Co-founded by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray in 1987, this was originally the employees’ canteen for Richard Rogers’ architectural practice next door. The Thames-side restaurant made a splash for its use of well-sourced, quality Italian ingredients cooked simply. This was long before restaurant menus regularly credited local ingredients and producers, and when fine dining was far more fussy. The River Café has also been a training ground for many notable chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Farmer's market7. Farmers’ markets

As an antidote to superstore shopping, and as a way to deliver local produce to local people, farmers’ markets developed in the late Nineties (Bath was first, in 1997). Shoppers chatted to farmers and went home with paper bags full of muddy veg and artisan breads. Markets like Borough, in London – where producers sell their own wares – blossomed as we worried about provenance and our local economies. Meanwhile, farm shops developed from small shops to destination outlets with cafés and cook schools.


8. Yotam Ottolenghi

Once you ‘did a Delia’ when entertaining – now we serve crowd-pleasing platters of spiced grains and pulses, strewn with roasted veg and pomegranates. Israeli-born Ottolenghi opened his first deli in Notting Hill in 2002, and published Plenty in 2010, followed by his BBC Four series Jerusalem on a Plate. His name has become a byword for cool, laid-back entertaining, with an on-trend Middle Eastern influence – even if we sometimes complain that there are an awful lot of ingredients per recipe.


9. Online shoppingOnline shopping

Ocado started trading in 2002 and hit 50,000 weekly deliveries in 2006. Online shopping still has only 4 per cent of the grocery market share, however analysts predict that this will increase as new developments – such as click-and-collect (order online, then pick up the goods in your local store) – make it more useful. For food lovers everywhere, online means that we’re never more than a tap away from the most unusual spices, fine wines and chocolate-coated popping candy.

Find your favourite recipes and buy the ingredients in a just a few clicks on the site. 

10. Burgers & BBQs

From zero to hero! Once mass-processed, soggy patties of dubious provenance, the new burger is key to the street-food revolution, found on the smartest menus wearing a ‘100% beef’ label with pride. We’re also more likely to be cooking them in our gardens, as the trend for eating outdoors around the BBQ or pizza oven continues to grow.

Make the most of the garden grill with our barbecue favourites - and don't forget the patties! Our burger collection is full of inspired ideas.


Jamie oliver11. Jamie Oliver

From the moment he bish-bash-boshed around his TV kitchen on BBC Two’s The Naked Chef in 1999, Jamie made cooking cool and fun. His Fifteen foundation helps kids from underprivileged backgrounds, and he used his considerable influence to spearhead national campaigns for better school dinners, and to get the nation cooking. He’s a national treasure with a global reach, who captures the food zeitgeist, from speedier cooking to meals on a budget.

12. The Great British Bake Off 

Fabulous cakes and gentle jeopardy, plus the cheeky catchphrase ‘soggy bottoms’ – it’s no wonder the BBC’s Bake Off has entered the national conversation – almost 8 million watched the first episode of this series. The show, launched in 2010, also introduced Mary Berry to a generation who had no idea that she published her first book (Hamlyn All Colour Cookery Book) 44 years ago.

Find out what 2013 finalist Kimberley Wilson thinks of this year's contestants, bakes and the judge's decisions in our Kimberley comments series. Fancy having a go yourself? 2013 champion Frances Quinn tell us how to win Bake Off.

13. NigellaNigella

From her first cookbook How to Eat in 1998 (which had no photographs), Nigella’s lively, personal writing conjured up an aspirational lifestyle where all in the kitchen is lovely. Her TV series reinforced the image of her as our ‘domestic goddess’, with a penchant for nibbling from the fridge, she reminds us of the sheer pleasure of indulgent eating.

14. Baking

The recession led to a renewed interest in domestic thrift and craft, which included baking, and was helped along by The Great British Bake Off, and nurtured by Nigella and Kirstie Allsopp. It’s increasingly popular among the young, with surveys showing 16- to 25-year-olds now bake more than older cooks. 

Impress everyone (even yourself) and follow our recipes and tips for showstopping bakes and cakes.


Gordon15. Gordon Ramsay

The original scary, sweary TV chef, but behind the bluster, a brilliant cook and total perfectionist. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, opened in London’s Chelsea in 1998, still has three Michelin stars. As well as setting the bar high with his own restaurant cooking, and becoming a key name in British food, he trained and mentored a second generation of kitchen talent, including Jason Atherton, Angela Hartnett, Marcus Wareing and Clare Smyth – who now runs Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Our collection of delectable Gordon Ramsay recipes are dinner party must-haves.


16. MasterChef

The original series presented by Loyd Grossman ran from 1990- 2001. Shot in a bright kitchen set, competition was keen, but it never reached the high stress levels of the revamped version, which returned in 2005. Now competitors sweat it out in professional kitchens and serve their efforts to Michelin- starred chefs. The show, presented by John Torode and Greg Wallace, spawned genuinely talented winners, including Thomasina Miers (2005), who established the Wahaca restaurant chain.


17. Salted caramelSalted caramel

A palate-pleasing pairing of two favourite flavours that may have its origins in Brittany, France, with its culture of salted butter and sweets. Now every chocolate brand and selection box includes a salted caramel option.

We can't get enough of it at Good Food HQ - try these delicious salted caramel recipes.


18. Couscous

An alternative to potatoes and rice, couscous is usually called a grain, but is actually tiny balls of pasta. Traditionally, this Middle Eastern staple is steamed in a couscoussier, but once easy-cook couscous arrived, we started stocking up on it for everything from midweek meals to North African dinner-party dishes. 

The quickest grain to prepare and the perfect base for so many dishes - give our favourite couscous recipes a go.


Coffee shops19. Coffee shops

Big chains, cappuccinos and milky lattes dominated the Nineties, but now we’re seeing a wave of independent coffee shops offering freshly roasted single-origin beans, stronger coffee and a more personal service. Coffee aficionados re-create the scenario at home with top-of-the-range coffee machines, and attend coffee tastings and barista training.

Are you addicted to caffeine? read about the health benefits and side effects of too many cups in our guide.


20. Street food

The UK street-food movement is inspired by immigrant cooking and American food culture – and a desire for authentic global food at affordable prices. It’s given us quality burgers, Korean specialities, churros and North African stews, usually served from a van at a music festival, a food fair, or in your local market. The British Street Food Awards are now an annual event.


21. Delia SmithDelia Smith

With her no-nonsense approach, Delia taught millions how to cook from the Seventies onwards with her best-selling Cookery Course series. She only had to mention an ingredient or utensil for it to sell out. The ‘Delia effect’ had cranberries flying off the shelves in 1995, and sales for the mini chopper soaring by 80% after she used it. She continues sharing her expertise online, but for many of us, Delia’s books are her legacy – she has sold 21 million copies.

22. Sushi

Exotic and daring 25 years ago, today sushi is a regular take-out lunch from a local supermarket. More Japanese food has come our way, as health experts encourage us to follow this more nutritious way of eating. Chains YO! Sushi, Wasabi and Wagamama have also introduced us to miso soups, soba noodles and bento.

It's easier to make than you'd think! Roll your own sushi with our video guide for a delicious and super satisfying supper.

23. The 5:2 diet5:2 diet

Intermittent fasting took off following a BBC Horizon documentary in August 2012. The idea of dieting only two days a week (500 calories a day for women, 600 for men) had huge appeal for anyone who’d ever broken a diet out of sheer boredom. Devised by Dr Michael Mosley and journalist Mimi Spencer, this flexible trend broke the diet mould.

Tempted to try the 5:2 diet? Make sure you have all the facts first. Our health editor and nutritional therapist take a look at the pros and cons.


24. Food on the web

Booking a restaurant, browsing food sites, tweeting, blogging and Instagramming our meals – food on the web means we share and discover more about it than we dreamed possible 25 years ago. It’s also launched online careers, such as Jack Monroe’s blog

With over 8000 recipes, lifestyle guides on everything from health to budgeting and our how to videos to improve your skills, we have everything you need to make your next 25 years in food the best yet.


25. Food scares & welfare issuesFood scares

From BSE in 1987 to last year’s horsemeat scandal, bad-news stories put us on our guard about mass-produced food, animal welfare and misleading labelling. Many of us have become more choosy about what we eat, and one positive outcome is that we’ve supported small-scale food production, which has allowed smaller producers to thrive.


Do you agree with our list? What have been the defining moments in food over the last 25 years in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below...

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