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Adaptation to Cuisines (curious)

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
From various discussion threads and the responses from users, its quite evident that many amongst us are restaurant owners or chefs.

I don't know if I will be putting the question that I have in my mind correctly. So let me try with a scenario.

For example, using television chefs / personalities, Mario B. does mainly Italian style cooking but his background has been that culture. So don't know if there was any adaptation involved (though based on his series there are a bunch of different Italian cuisines).

But recently I was discussing with my friends and found out about this restaurant where they serve a combo of Indian-Latin food. I was informed its the new nuevo-latino thing. The head chef is supposedly of south-east asian decent and was influenced by latin flavors that she put in her menu.
They seem to be doing fine.

A similar type of thing (French-Indian) had failed miserably in one other restaurant.

How have you as a chef / restaurant owner - dealt with something like this? I mean the difficulties involved, passing the cultural divide (say you have been brought up on spices all your life and are working in an eastern-european type restaurant....)?

Also don't know if I have phrased the question correctly. I am interested in finding out the difficulties involved and the steps taken to resolve them.

Just curious about your experience.
post #2 of 25
Fusion cuisine has a long and proud heritage.

Is this what you mean?

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

probably not...

what I meant was - who have tried different cuisines as chefs/owners and what are the difficulties involved.

say you have been a traditional Italian chef and due to some freak of luck - you ended up in a French or Mexican or Indian restaurant or incorporated a Oriental dish on your menu (a lot of diners have Teiryaki - something).

So how many amongst us - have something like that at their restaurants. Or work in a restaurant different from what your upbringing had been.

Curious to know their experience in terms of difficulties, how they resolved them (on-site help / online help ). I read a thread in which one of the caterers tried out an fusion-Indian cuisine at a party. That poked my curiosity.
post #4 of 25
There is general concensus that all "traditional" ethnic cuisine served in American restaurants have been "Americanized". This is even true for restaurants which primarily serve specific ethnic groups where the language is the predominant language over English.

If you take twenty 80 year olds who were born and raised in their native country and bring them to the one restaurant America you think has the most authentic cuisine of their origin, I'm pretty confident they'll be displeased and less than impressed with it's authenticity.


Native Chinese born and raised in China will tell you that even what is considered the most "authentic" food in any Chinatown - including San Francisco and Vancouver is not the same as Hong Kong and that you just can't get "good food" (home cookin') in the states or overseas.

It is highly unlikely that anyone in the states eat true French breads, largely due to the fact that the wheat in Europe is processed into flour via a different method. The flour they use is fundamentally different than the flour we use in the states.

There most certainly is "adaptation". A restaurant's end goal is to make money to sustain itself and hopefully make a profit. You can't do that without catering to the tastes of those who are going to pay money to eat the food.

Also keep in mind that there are numerous factors that can affect failure and success other than the type of cuisine. Perhaps the French-Indian restaurant had food that was equal to any top restaurant but simply couldn't find the patrons it needed who would appreciate the food. Maybe they had bad service. Maybe their dishes were poorly executed and the type of cuisine had nothing to do with it. Well... you get the point...
post #5 of 25
I consider Germany to have better Chinese food than I've had here in the States. Haven't traveled to China to compare.

Thought this tied in somehow.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #6 of 25
One more comment. I read a book by Ken Hom: Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood.
Very interesting story of growing up in the Chinese restaurants cooking for Americans (with lots of meat and few vegetables with heavy sugary sauces) and then eating something approximating "authentic" Chinese food based off of common American ingredients.

It was a very interesting book about his mom working very hard and having little time to cook good food. So lots of shortcut food was used. I hated the food in it. I never cooked anything I liked even though it's got good reviews at Amazon.

The book is, however, very much about the adaption the time-strapped home-cook faced and somewhat about what the restaurants did to sell to Americans.

Hmm, looking a little more, it might have been this one: Ken Hom's Easy Family Dishes: A Memoir with Recipes

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 


thanx for the references phatch, that is something definitely worth reading.

and I also truly agree with you mudbug that one does need to make money if they are running their own restaurant.

I guess that is what I was interested in- individual experiences in different cuisines during their stints as chefs / restaurant owners.
post #8 of 25
Thoughout the years we have had many, many discussions on the topic of fusion cuisine and authenticity. Some of it very interesting reading. I would suggest you look up some of these older threads for some great conversations and debates. I,personally, am not a big fan of fusion cuisine, per se. Too many people are trying it when they really don't understand the cuisines they are trying to fuse. You really must have a full grasp of the cuisines and their foods and uses to do fusion and create something that is more than just a pile of mished-mashed crap. To many chefs just seem to randomly throw things together and justify it under the heading of fusion. Well done fusion can be a wonderful thing though, but it takes a lot of work and thought. Indian and Latin cuisines seem like they could meld quite nicely, in my mind, as they share a lot of flavors and spices, but again it must be done with care or you will end up with a plate that is full of all these conflicting flavors that don't go together.

One of my other stances on fusion cuisine is that all food really is fusion cuisine. No culture's cuisine came about in a vacuum. Where would Italian cuisine be without tomatoes? Where would German cuisine be without spices from the East? Where would french food be without the grape?
post #9 of 25

fusion food

This is a subject very close to my heart as I love to eat and my husband does too.

About Chinese food, true that you can't get the exact same ingredients in the U.S. as you do in China or Vietnam (where my parents are from) and so for most of my childhood, I ate only my mom cooking. However, her techiniques and ingredients were pretty authentic since I have traveled and eaten in Hong Kong, San Fran, Seattle, Chicago, NY, Rome (very, very bad), St. Louis and the "new Hong Kong" Richmond B. C. All the food in "real" Chinese restuarants taste similar. The same dishes and the same authentic flavours. For example in Richmond B.C. my family had a little reunion, with aunts and uncles from all over including Hong Kong and Guam. They recognizes the food as true Cantonese and loved it. If someone is going to make a fusion dish it definately needs to be advertised as such, so there are no suprises. Basically, authentic food can be had anywhere with the right ingredients and the right touch.

Recently, I ate at an Italian ristorante in Torino and they had a creative menu, Mild, Medium, Hand Extreme. They took tradional Italian recipies and twisted them to the various degrees ( mild to extreme) They presented the dishes with a bite of the traditional and then the twist. It was mind blowing. One dish I loved was a traditional pea soup make with fresh spring peas, the twisted version was a pea soup mousse, served lukewarm. They also had sushi variations of carpaccio etc.. I should have gotten a menu.

I think giving diners a choice of fusion vs. traditional is nice that way they have the ultimate choice.
post #10 of 25
To combine different cuisines, one must thoroughly understand the flavor principles and techniques of all of them. Too many "fusion" places just throw things together without knowing the basics of the individual elements. When I was cooking on the line, I worked for a chef who combined elements of various Asian (mainly Southeast Asian and a little Japanese) cuisines, Indian, and Southwest U.S. I thought his food was just great -- to the point where I followed him from restaurant to restaurant.

But I thought you were asking if someone could cook credible food from a culture other than his/her own. To which I answer, "Yes, an intelligent cook can learn anything," and leave it at that. Don't get me started on the myth of authenticity coming only from one's ethnicity. :mad:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #11 of 25


As an apprentice of one of the best programs in the world and a student of the best cooking school in the world I can give you a good idea of what this is about.

Like most of the Chef's said fusion is apart of all the cuisine you and I create. Our ingredients are some from all over the world. Some growers, and vineyards do a better job than other to help us in American. Americanize our tastebuds to the extreme.

Unless you are quoting a recipe from Escoffier or some other Ducasse or Classic French method. All food is fusing in some manner. A quick reaserch od the culinary history will all but give you some vivid delight into the creative world of classic, comteporary and abroad cuisine.

Let me also give you a broader classification. You were also asking the question is Fusion a trend or a fad.

I am going to quote Anthony Bourdain "Do one thing real good is the making of a fine Chef and restaurants". This was a comment about a Chef that poached bones and served the insides for delicacy. So, maybe people did not want to eat it. But, it was original no fadish and it had lasting power. Some fushion dishes only lend themselves one or two times.
post #12 of 25

Commenting Again

I really like this thread. The community really needed this thread for so long. I am truly glad it has come around.

You mentioned Batali. Great example. Chef Batali is a good example of what do to with a clear understanding of the food from his region he loves. The food is great. Not only that Chef Batali is one of those Chef's that is a great personality, cook and restauranteur. Great example. His dishes are exqusite.

I would also suggest reading this months food and wine. There is an article I believe on page 63 about the great George Pierrier. This fantastic Chef has been in the business for over 20 plus years. I do not want to quote to many of the story excerts however. If you were to buy the Chef's book and read his story then read this article you would see quite clearly how good and how true to French Cuisine the Chef is.

Food fans like myself wait many many years to enjoy the adventure at Le Bec Fin.
post #13 of 25
So are you saying that these examples are not a fusion of cuisines? If that is the case I would have to disagree. As I stated earlier, I truly believe all cuisines are "fusion" cuisine. No cuisine evolved in a vacuum. Each cuisine has been influence by foods and ingredients that at one time or another were not native to that area. Classic French cuisine is the same. It evolved over many, many years, incorporating first the foods that the Romans brought, then the foods that the spice merchants brought, the food of the Medici and finally the foods brought from the New World. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there is no "pure" cuisine out there, except for maybe the cuisines of a few natives living deep in the jungles of South America or deep in Africa, even then you would be hard pressed to not find influences from outside their culture.
post #14 of 25



I would comment to the fact, and I am not heating this debate to see either one of us biffed. However, I think it is important to understand that Caterina de' Medici was more than a Chef. She was very responsible for some very important things happening in France in the late 1560's.

It was in 1564 Caterina de' Medici moved to France with Italian cooks and brought some orginial like Duck l'orange and onion soup.

My point being from "our" perspective is: Escoffier wrote the very first A la Carte menu to exists. As you and I know the food business today. Ferdinand Point trained the most influential Chefs walking the planet and there techniques. He was I believe 10 years older than Escoffier and the father of French Nouvell Cuisine.
post #15 of 25
I think it's important to state that the term "fusion" could easily be overused and out of context in many cases. If some immigrant from another country came over and discovered for whatever reason they could actually make some money and sustain a living by "cooking" food to feed their fellow immigrants and had to work with whatever ingredients they could get their hands on - I don't consider this fusion.

"Fusion cooking" to me is fusion by intention, not fusion by default.
post #16 of 25

Fusions' Fickleness


I appreciate the last comment upon Fusion. My background is upper tier food facilities. However, in 1995 in a town near here the very first Fusion restaurant opened. The restaurant is called Fusion Cafe. When opened it was one of the most popular places to eat in that town.

What I have learned about Fusion in the sense of the cuisine being established I think by definition is the fusion of different ingredients alike to achieve and establish a dish to no comparison. Fusion born of it's own. I guess meaning in my terms. It is a form of cooking technique that can be controlled and is not a mistake. As many what we call classics start with the basic beginnings of oil, butter, cream, roux etc.... Fusion of my understanding has played its on twists with ideas such as Portabella Mushroom Sandwich. I have even seen things such as chive oils and infused mustards. I maybe wrong because I don't perform under those circumstances very much. But, the presentation is astounding.

I do believe that if you are a true Fusion restaurant stay Fusion. Don't start dipping into other foods. Just my opinion.
post #17 of 25
Mudbug, I agree with you on your definition of "fusion" cuisine. I was just making the point that this melding of cultures and cuisines is nothing new. It has been going on ever since humankind started traveling. Today it just moves much more quickly as travel and communication move more quickly. Great examples of this show up in cultures after war. Soliders returning home had developed tastes for new foods while they were away, at war. Upon returning home they oftentimes attempted to recreate those dishes or fused the new foods and ingredients they liked with foods from their homelands.

Today's modern "fusion" movement got its start in the middle of the last century as chefs in the Nouvelle Cuisine movement started looking at the foods of other cultures that they could use their "french" techinques on. It also stemmed from the desire of these chefs to combine what were to be considered the 2 great cuisines of the world, french and chinese. The fusion movement really took off in the 1980's as (now high profile) chefs retuned from working in Asia where they had refined this style of fuision cuisine. Two of the most influential (whether you like them or not) were Wolfgang Puck and Jean-George Vonrichten (sp?). The success of these 2 chefs really blew the doors wide open on the concept and people have been experimenting ever since. While "fusion" cuisine was orginally a melding of French and Asia (specifically Chinese and Souteast Asian) it now encompasses the melding of any distant, disparate cuisines.
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
wow! so fusion itself is a term that has been defined in a broad range of terms.
but in that case, what would constitute to be a cuisine of a region / country / ....?
will it be the prevalent cuisine at that particular point in time at that particular geographical area?
post #19 of 25
Only when you get a bunch of people together who use the term without fully understanding the proper definition.

Let's try to clarify:

Cuisine: A French term pertaining to a specific style of cooking (as in Chinese cuisine), or a country's food in general.

Fusion: A style of cooking that combines ingredients and techniques from very different cultures or countries. (And in mudbug's mind: from the standpoint that a chef well versed in each culture separately then intentionally tries to combine two unrelated cuisines for the purpose of creating something new.)
post #20 of 25

Undestanding Cooking!

I am glad to see that we have begun to use terms in our cooking defitions. I wonder though why they named a restaurant of one of the finest chefs in the world at America's best cooking school The Escoffier.

To me there is not an arguement. I do agree with some of these comments upon fusion etc...I also have agreeance upon classical. However, we are forgetting that we are indebted to the late Phonecians of a decade of contribution, we owe it to the Vikings or Wikings, we owe it to the Italians.

Chefs we owe it great paritites of hommage the our late Frenchman for creating such dynamor among our restaurant facitlites. HAIL ESCOFFIER and the founding fathers of FRENCH CUISINE or should we say FRENCH FUSION CUISINE. I do not think so.
post #21 of 25
I agree with MUDBUG. I worked at a 5-star resort and we had to deal with many different back grounds. If the person ordered something from their native land....they DID NOT like it when they ate it. Our wait staff was always taught to try and "push" the customer away from "something from home". In addition, I am NOT a fan of any type of fusion cooking. I don't think it was ever meant to be, and a lot of "chefs" show it every day. :)
post #22 of 25

Fusion Mess!

Do not get me wrong. There are some great fusion creations. However, when creating these dishes for expansion, flavor, or profile utilization it only makes sense to me to use the essential buidling blocks of basic and advanced cooking techniques. I refer to La Method, and La Technique. Two french versions of great gooking heritage and technique.
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 
sdunn, I like the idea of pushing customers away from 'something from home'

takes care of a lot of issues that result based on lost-in-translation syndrome

a grand example of this is - most Indian curries are spicy / savory items. one of the great chefs topped it off with what he called was mango-chutney.

it was like having egg-plant curry with mango jam.

so I see what you mean
post #24 of 25
I completely disagree with this statement. How do you think the world cuisine become what it is today if not with infusion. Trading of spices. Trading of ideas between the French, the English, the German and the middle eastern countries. Infusion is the natural progression of food. Do a little reading on the history of food and you will see that we are repeating exactly what they did over 500 years ago.
Whenever we cook we become practical chemists, drawing on the accumulated knowledge of generations, and transforming what the Earth offers us into more concentrated forms of pleasure and nourishment.
Whenever we cook we become practical chemists, drawing on the accumulated knowledge of generations, and transforming what the Earth offers us into more concentrated forms of pleasure and nourishment.
post #25 of 25
a place we've been going to lately is homegrown fusion in action. it's a family owned chinese place-in america-serving a largely mexican clientelle. over time they've been adding more mexican ingredients to chinese techniques and flavor-destinations (just coined that phrase-making any sense?) they could have gone the sichuan route like all the other chinese places in sedro have done but theyve been working in americanized cantonese instead. it is great!! i wish i were better at describing the food. i imagine this is what early ethnic restaraunteurs in america did to stay afloat and still cook in a lexicon they were familiar with.
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