COVID restrictions leading most Americans to being more adventurous in the kitchen

NEW YORK — As countries across the world enter new lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey finds being stuck inside is actually making Americans more adventurous when it comes to their food.

The OnePoll study asked 2,000 Americans about how they’re keeping things interesting in the kitchen during quarantine. Three in five are using this time to explore new cultures through food. Millennials are the most likely to don a chef’s hat and experiment with new cuisine during quarantine so far (69%). That’s compared to 65 percent of Generation X and a mere 28 percent of baby boomers.

Traveling around the world — via the kitchen

Commissioned by Pearls Olives, the survey reveals 65 percent of respondents say travel restrictions have made them more interested in trying new cultural foods while at home. The top cultural cuisines these respondents want to try during quarantine include Italian (51%) and Mexican (44%), with regional American food and Spanish food tying for third place. Just over a third of respondents also want to take a trip to France with their food. Another 27 percent want to try Middle Eastern food and one in four want to reach for something Greek.

“The study showed us that Americans are taking to the kitchen to experiment with more out of the box cuisines,” says Tré Musco, Chief Brand Officer for Pearls Olives, in a statement. “As many parts of the country enter another lockdown due to COVID-19, exploring cultural cuisines is a great way to add interest to your meals – and these results reflect this.”

“For Italian and Mexican cuisines in particular, an easy way to experiment with these cultural dishes is adding black olives, more distinctly flavored kalamata olives or even jalapeno stuffed green olives for an additional burst of flavor to simple dishes like pizzas, pastas, tacos and salads,” Musco adds.

Within the United States, the top regional foods respondents are missing easy access to are tied between Southern and Northeastern cuisine (28%). Respondents were also asked which U.S. city is the best destination for food. Americans named the Big Apple as the foodie capital of the country, closely followed by Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.

Food ‘FOMO’ is turning more people into cooks

With the average person canceling three trips due to COVID-19, 56 percent of the poll says they have food FOMO (fear of missing out) from past vacations and have tried to replicate those dishes during quarantine.

Reminiscing on life before the pandemic, naturally going to restaurants tops the list of food experiences respondents are missing out on. One in five respondents also shared they miss spending time with friends and experiencing restaurant ambiances as well as multiple course meals.

This food FOMO has been beneficial in a way however, as respondents are cooking more at home during the pandemic. Americans are breaking out the pots and pans an average of seven times a week compared to six prior to lockdown. Six in 10 respondents add the top flavor profile they look for in new foods is something savory.

“With the increased focus on home cooking, we’re seeing consumers find new, creative ways to enjoy the flavors they may miss from traveling or eating out,” Musco explains. “Pantry staples like olives are a versatile way to add those savory flavors home chefs are looking for and are a healthy, flavorful addition to just about any dish to make a good thing even better.”