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Chefs Criticize 'Americanized' Food

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  • Frank Language Feb 14, 1999 10:16 PM
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I'm trying to find this article on Yahoo News; I weould
post it (it was a repost), but in deference to our
fearless leader I'm hesitant. In it, Associated Press
writer DONNA ABU-NASR writes about how international
chefs in this country and their home countries tell how
the Americanized versions of dishes are horribly
mangled.

"Although qualified chefs and proper ingredients are
generally more available in recent years, many chefs
still Americanize their ethnic dishes merely to please
American palates. The result, critics say, is food
that's heavy, creamy, thick and sweet with clashing
flavors."

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  1. f
    Frank Language

    OLops, here it is: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/
    headlines/ap/ap_us/story.html?s=v/ap/19990214/us/
    eating_authentic_1.html

    7 Replies
    1. re: Frank Language

      I can't seem to access this URL with my primitive internet skills; can anyone post it as a link, so I can just click on it in my usual lazy way?

      1. re: steve d.

        no problem, steve. click below.

        Link: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/...

        1. re: Jim Leff
          j
          Josh Mittleman

          The article is terrible: a collection of whining
          complaints addressing several completely unrelated
          issues, presented without any apparent attempt at
          composition. Analyzing "American cuisine" by
          considering gloppy French dressing or cheap Chinese
          food is simply foolish: Bad cooking exists everywhere.
          The fact that Italian pizzerias don't use pepperoni
          says nothing at all: American Italian cuisine is a
          legitimate descendent of native Italian cuisine. It
          would make as much sense to criticize Venetian cooking
          for not being identical to Roman cooking. And the
          comments about children's menus are entirely
          out-of-place.

          The basic question (which the reporter made no
          particular effort to ddress) is whether it is somehow
          wrong for a chef to take inspiration from the cuisine
          of another country and modify it to suit his interests
          and his customers'. If he then tries to present it as
          authentic ethnic cuisine, then of course he should be
          criticized for misleading his clientele. If he
          produces bad food, then he's simply a bad chef. But if
          he simply offers good food as his creativity inspired
          by an ethnic tradition, why should anyone object?

          1. re: Josh Mittleman

            I find this particularly interesting because this
            morning I had an Email from the owner of a very popular
            Italian restaurant here in St. Louis referring to a
            post by Jeremy's Osner's brother wherein Osner the
            younger pretty seriously blasted this restaurant's
            cuisine and the clientele as well. The owner emailed me
            because I had not disagreed with the post (I was pretty
            wishy-washy, actually) but more or less agreed, as I
            recall. To his credit, he really wanted to know what I
            thought would improve his cuisine. This is a VERY
            popular spot, the portions are huge and the atmosphere
            is friendly, service is good. But the food to my mind
            is more a take-off on Italian food. Clearly, it is
            inspired by Italian food, but definitely Americanized.
            Now, my guess is that folks flock there because they
            really do like the food. Al dente pasta would most
            likely get sent back as undercooked.

            Should I tell the owner that so far as the majority of
            his customers are concerned the food is probably hunky
            dory? Because I believe that's the case.

            I don't know if he regularly follows the site or if
            someone told him about the posts. pat

            1. re: pat hammond

              Pat--

              You don't make it clear whether the food at this place is (in your opinion) good or not -- you just say it's "Americanized." As Josh Mittleman said, " American Italian cuisine is a legitimate descendent of native Italian cuisine." If it's bad food, tell the owner to change the chef; if it's good but not "authentic," there's no problem, and Osner the Younger is out of line. If you do enough research, you discover nothing is "authentic," just as there are no "pure" nations. We're all mongrels, thank goodness.

              1. re: steve d.

                Steve: Thanks very much for your reply. It was
                helpful in allowing me to sort through my own personal
                taste to arrive at a conclusion I was able to
                communicate to the restaurant owner. He even offered
                me a certificate to his restaurant. I respectfully
                declined. pat

            2. re: Josh Mittleman
              s
              Scott Bowling

              The article does suffer from a lack of thought and
              detail, for sure. I guess they wanted to be
              "controversial" or something. It's kind of funny, as
              they make sweeping generalizations about "foreign"
              cuisine, showing just the sort of ignorance they're
              supposedly decrying.

              Take Italian cooking, for instance. Though the tomato
              is associated with Italian dishes, the lowly tomato
              wasn't introduced into Italy until the discovery of the
              New World, America. The tomato had a bad reputation for
              centuries after it's intitial introduction into Europe.
              And the article seems blissfully ignorant that these
              countries have a vast variety of regional cooking
              styles and dishes. Italy has broad differences between
              North and South, where northerly the cooking tends to
              use butter, fresh egg pasta, rice even, with creamier
              and lighter sauces; while to the South you generally
              find greater use of olive oil, tubular pastas, and
              hearty tomato sauces. There are also major differences
              in what's available based on coastal area or regional
              farm production.

              And China is a huge country with a great deal of
              geographic variation, lending to a wide variety of
              available foodstuffs and dishes -- all "authentic"
              Chinese, yet quite distinct in terms of flavorings and
              preparation techniques.

              It is a shame the article is such a shallow look,
              looking only to drum up interest with an overblown
              controversy. I'm sure the Bolognese have railed about
              the horrors committed in Genoa from time to time, or at
              least vice-versa, yet each is "authentic" Italian. Or
              maybe not, since the article would have us believe that
              there is some singular correct cuisine that can be
              labelled "Italian," "French," "Chinese," etc.

              Rubbish.