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The 10 Biggest Food Stories of 2014 (So Far)

By Kelly Dobkin
July 1, 2014

From viral foods to new celebrity-chef restaurants to ingredient shortages, 2014 has been rife with food-world drama. Since we just passed the year's halfway mark, we figured it was a good time to take a look back at the year's biggest food stories so far. Read on for our top 10 — and let us know if we missed any big moments in the comments below.

  • The Lime shortage

    Drought, disease and even drug-cartel violence plagued this year's lime crop in Mexico, driving up prices to four and five times the usual amount per carton. To stay afloat, restaurants that use an abundance of limes, like Mexican restaurants, employed a variety of tactics, including raising prices, substituting lemons or simply eating the cost. Some restaurants in California were even asking residents to donate limes from their backyard gardens to the tune of a free drink. Take a deeper look at the way chefs handled the crisis here. Luckily, it seems like the crisis has been averted.

  • Sriracha battle ends

    In late 2013, the town of Irwindale, CA filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods (who make the famous rooster-brand Sriracha) after residents complained that odors from the factor were irritating their eyes, noses and throats. Sriracha fans freaked out, especially after production temporarily stopped in November. Huy Fong founder David Tran even considered moving his factory to other locations like Texas. But in May of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown convinced Irwindale mayor Mark Breceda to drop the lawsuit, after no significant air-quality issues were found by an independent air-quality team. 

  • Apps that let you buy restaurant reservations

    Digital apps that charge for in-demand tables at peak periods are booming in 2014. There's Killer Rezzy, Zurvu and, most notably, Resy, which was launched by Eater co-founder Ben Leventhal and social-media guru Gary Vaynerchuk. Almost immediately, these new apps drew strong feelings from chefs, diners, and The New York Times, who put the debate over pay-for-reservations services on page one of the paper. Our own James Mulcahy weighed in with an opinion of his own. Spoiler alert: he's not a fan. 

  • California glove policy comes and goes

    A controversial policy banning bare-hand contact with food by restaurant and bar employees in California was passed earlier this year. A considerable backlash from both the public and food-service employees ensued, with many pointing out that germs can still live on a rubber globe. The ban was since repealed by unanimous decision.

  • No-tipping policies catch on

    Part of a trend that began last year with restaurants like Sushi Yasuda banning tipping has caught on even further in 2014. Girard in Philadelphia and Oaks Crossing in San Antonio both jumped on board. Zagat's Philadelphia editor Danya Heninger weighed in on how Girard could change the city's restaurant culture.

  • Shake Shack 10th anniversary

    Shake Shack celebrated its 10-year anniversary by throwing an epic bash at its original Madison Square Park location in NYC on June 12. In addition, the Shack also rolled out a different celebrity-chef-crafted burger each day that week from heavy hitters like David Chang, April Bloomfield, Andrew Zimmern, Daniel Humm and Daniel Boulud. The result was epic 400-person-long lines that shattered Shake Shack records.

  • Photo by: Erik Kabik/Retna

    Giada opens her first restaurant

    The longtime Food Network star recently opened her very first restaurant ever in Las Vegas earlier this month within boutique Strip hotel The Cromwell. This follows in a trend of TV chefs seeking new restaurant spaces (Curtis Stone's Maude, Bobby Flay's newest, Gato) in recent years, perhaps as a further means of legitimizing careers long reliant on TV stardom. Here's everything you need to know about Giada's, in case you were wondering.

  • Bobby Flay returns with Gato

    Speaking of which, chef Bobby Flay also opened a new restaurant in NYC in 2014 called Gato, an ode to his now-shuttered Bolo. This was a big moment for Flay, who hadn't opened a new NYC restaurant in nine years and who had closed both Mesa Grill and Bolo in the last decade due to rent hikes/landlord issues. So far so good for Flay, as Gato has been very well critically received.  

  • Nutella blows up

    The ever-viral Italian hazelnut spread, Nutella, had a moment in 2014, celebrating its 80th anniversary by opening an NYC outpost of its Eataly Nutella bar (already up and running in Chicago), causing lines down the block. Then the brand officially celebrated with a massive giveaway next to Eataly and Nutella Cronut holes by pastry chef Dominique Ansel. Then, the latest: there will be a Nutella Carvel flavor this summer

  • Chipotle guacamole scandal

    The fast-casual burrito slinger warned in March that it may be forced to stop serving guacamole if climate change gets any worse, as a spike in avocado prices could make the item too costly to make. A rep for Chipotle notes that the comment was taken out of context, and that the magnate has no plans to stop serving it anytime soon.

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