California Cuisine

Fresh produce, hormone-free meat with a mix of healthy fusion cooking is the basic elements behind the new trend in “California cuisine”. Paying extra attention to the presentation of meals and the freshness of the ingredients, California cuisine has become a new culinary trend across the country. California cuisine derives from French cooking however, only uses foods when in season and available at local farmer’s markets. In order to compromise for “seasonal” ingredients, menus are constantly changing with the seasons to meet the produce locally available.

This not only helps the quality of the food but gives the restaurants options for diverse and ever changing menus. The term “California cuisine” actually had nothing to do with the traditional foods of California but arose as part of a culinary movement. Many foods like the California Roll, Chinese Chicken Salad, Cioppino, French Dip Sandwich and many more actually originated in California and not in the county where the type of food is associated with. California is a very diverse place with people from all over the world and the food represents these countries and cultures however adds a modern twist. California chefs often simultaneously imitate, adapt, simplify and unite components of several cuisines. Many people know this style as “fusion cooking,” but big fans of authentic ethnic cuisines might condemn it as “an inept copycat” (Paramapoonya, 2012). While California cuisine can be known to take traditional dishes and add a different twist, which is the part that makes California cuisine so unique. The great thing about California cuisine is that it can incorporate any style of food from Italian, Chinese, Japanese, or French and by adding fresh California produce, you instantly have a California cuisine meal.

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Some foods usually incorporated into California cuisine are avocados, citrus fruits, artichokes, herbs, seafood, tofu and some sort of meat or chicken. The result of using such fresh and local ingredients adds freshness and high quality taste to all the meals. However, with every positive comes a negative. Many people feel using such fresh ingredients is a restaurants excuse for serving such tiny portions and charging high prices. While California cuisine can be known to take traditional dishes and add a different twist, that is the part that makes California cuisine so unique and great.

As well with the growing population for grapes, many farms are leaving produce for grape growing which affects the availability to still receive fresh and local ingredients. But with such a demand for organic produce also starts a new market for organic farming which is becoming more widespread across California. One of the originators to California cuisine is Alice Waters who owns Chez Panisse in Berkley. She opened her restaurant in the 1970’s and was one of the first restaurants to offer California cuisine. Waters is known as the pioneer to the organic California cuisine movement.

Along with Chez Panisse she also owns two other restaurants in Berkley that also cater to fresh, local and organic ingredients as well. Her vision for her restaurants and meals was to serve food with the freshest and highest quality ingredients she could find, and that is how she came onto organic produce. Waters belief is that by using fresher ingredients, the ending product of meals is overall better. Wolfgang Puck is another, world-renowned chef who has helped bring California cuisine to the mainstream restaurant industry.

Puck’s first restaurant, Spago, opened in West Hollywood in the 1980’s. Spago was an Italian based restaurant that incorporated California cuisine into its menu. After Spago received such high accolades Puck branched out and opened several other restaurants all over the West Coast, and then branched out into several other places over the United States. Pucks combination of French, Asian and European influences combined with a modern California twist makes Puck another chef who is credited with helping move the California cuisine movement into the culinary world.

Puck has branched California cuisine into fine dining restaurants and casual dining as well. With the different dining options, it isn’t hard to find a Puck restaurant that would interest you. Continuing on the path of healthy, fresh dining, Puck had created the WELL philosophy. WELL simply means, Wolfgang’s Eat, Love, Live, and “Keeping with WELL, whenever possible, Wolfgang Puck restaurants offer fresh, natural and organic products from local family farmers and purveyors who further sustainability and the humane treatment of nimals” (Meet Wolfgang Puck, 2012). Striving to keep this philosophy has helped Puck to having some of the top restaurants in the World and pave the way for California cuisine. John Ash is a third chef, mostly known to the Bay Area for his restaurant John Ash & Company, who was one of the first chef to use local, seasonal ingredients. His restaurant which opened up in the 1980’s in Santa Rosa, not only focused on seasonal ingredients, but dishes that complemented the wine being produced in the region as well.

Ash takes part in the movement for sustainable and organic food issues. California produce can range so drastically because of the widespread area that is home to many different climates, which allows great variety in produce coming from California. This wide variety and easy access to the Pacific Ocean, allows several options for chefs who are trying to stick to local foods and ingredients for their restaurants, which is what makes California cuisine such a success and widespread movement.

People all over the nation try to captivate and recreate some of these dishes, but without the easy access to such fresh foods makes recreating California cuisine dishes extremely complicated. Several places all over San Francisco and the Bay Area serve California cuisine while more and more restaurants are popping up with this type of food all the time. Who wouldn’t love a meal made of fresh, seasonal, and local California produce?

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