Like it or not, autumn will soon be here.

Summer salads will give ways to pots of chili and — dare I even say it — holiday fare.

With chefs already thinking about the upcoming season, I chatted with several to find out what they foresee.

Diners will notice a return to classic preparations, said executive chef Chad Lavely of the Granville Inn in Columbus, Ohio, who will have milk-braised pork shanks with mashed potatoes on his menu.

Food that is “comforting but elegant” will abound in the fall, he said.

“We’re looking at very simple preparations that are wholesome and very tasty.”

Jacob Hough, executive chef at Barcelona also sees braised meats making a comeback.

Plenty of seasonal foods, he said, will take center stage on the plate — including root vegetables and beans, which have ridden a wave of popularity this year.

Another trend, according to chef Bill Glover of Gallerie Bar & Bistro at the Hilton Columbus Downtown, involves lamb — not just delicate chops but hearty roasts of whole legs and shoulders.

Matt Stellrecht, a chef at Hollywood Casino Columbus, predicts an ongoing focus on pork, including more novel cuts such as pork belly and cheek.

Chefs will continue to smoke their own meats, he said.

In the casino kitchens, Stellrecht smokes beef brisket for 15 hours over applewood to achieve a flavor unique to his restaurant.

The use of locally grown foods, meanwhile, will thrive and expand — largely because of “the bounty of resources we have at our grasp here in Columbus,” said C. David Wolf, executive chef at the Blackwell Inn at Ohio State University.

Foods as medicines, based on the nutrition they provide, represent the next step in the local food movement, he said.

Wolf, by the way, doesn’t expect “hot chicken” to maintain its status, but he has yet to discover a replacement.

As for desserts, Jessica Bryant — executive chef at Freedom a la Cart catering — is pondering autumn pies.
“Classic things with a little tweak” are what she plans: German chocolate pecan pie instead of pecan and butternut-squash pie instead of the traditional pumpkin.

For gatherings, Watershed Distillery has a line of bottled cocktails that take the work out of bartending services.

“They’re ready to roll; you just pour them over ice,” said Grant Bain of the Columbus distillery.

Watershed offers a bottled Old Fashioned and a few other classic cocktails.

Fall also marks a time to switch flavor profiles in drinks, swapping traditional gin — with its light, grassy flavor — for heartier barrel-aged gin.

“Anything barrel-aged” is trending, Bain said.

For the holidays, he added, the punch bowl will come back in a big way.

Gone, though, are the days of simply spiking a fruit-juice punch with vodka.

Instead, Bain said, the punch bowl becomes an oversized craft cocktail, made with carefully selected herbs, citrus and liquors.

A single cocktail served in a large quantity as a punch eases party plans because the host doesn’t have to stock an entire bar, helping to keep costs in check.

— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at labraham@dispatch.com or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.