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What makes something "Gourmet" [moved from General Topics]

I would like help defining this. Was going to post some recipes to "gourmet casserole" in home cooking but is a casserole "gourmet"? A mac and cheese casserole makes me very happy. And mac and cheese is very "in" right now. Does that make it gourmet? Does it have to be in a gourmet cook book or mag. to be gourmet. I don't know. Just wondered...

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  1. A gourmet is a person with a discriminating palate and who is knowledgeable in fine food and drink. The word is a corruption of the French word gourmet, a valet in charge of the wines. It is often used as an adjective for meals of especially high quality, whose makers or preparers have used especial effort or art in presentation or cooking the meal, or for facilities equipped for preparing such meals, such as a restaurant.

    Gourmet is often used to modify another noun: gourmet cooking; gourmet restaurants. [French, from Old French, alteration (influenced by gourmand, glutton; see GOURMAND) of groumet, servant, valet in charge of wines, from Middle English grom, boy, valet.] USAGE NOTE: A gourmet is a person with discriminating taste in food and wine, as is a gourmand. Gourmand can also mean one who enjoys food in great quantities. An epicure is much the same as a gourmet, but the word may sometimes carry overtones of excessive refinement.

    Foodie is often used by the media as a conversational synonym for gourmet. The word was coined synchronously by Gael Greene and by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, co-authors of The Official Foodie Handbook (1984). But there are important distinctions to be made between the two terms. Some gourmets would not consider themseleves foodies and many foodies would not consider themselves gourmets.[1] A foodie might easily get caught up in a taco hunt—a search for the best taco stands and trucks in an area. [2] But this would not be an adventure for a gourmet, strictly speaking. Generally speaking, a foodie is a person who has a special interest in food, even foods that a self-identified gourmet would turn his or her nose up at.

    Certain events cater to people who consider themselves gourmets or foodies, such as wine tastings and Gourmet magazine. Publications often serve gourmets with food columns and features.


    1. When you've got a chain called Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, I'm not sure the word has any meaning left.

      1. Agreed. 40 years ago it meant something, same with de luxe. Now it's so overused it is meaningless, empty, and pretentious.

        1. Respectfully disagree with the two above postings.
          The fact that a word is abused doesn't deprive it of its meaning.
          Case in mind, the word FRESH. Tomato cans carry it on the label, as well as restaurant chains. However we all agree (I assume) the word has a meaning of its own.
          Some dishes take excruciating labors to concoct, or exquisite ingredients, or family secrets, or all of the above combined, and whenever tasted become a life changing experience. I'll always call that a GOURMET experience, irrespective of present and future marketing abuses of the word.

          1. To me, when referencing food... gourmet indicates fresh, best in class ingredients and mindful and creative preparation.

            A gourmet (person) is one who seeks out the above.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jbyoga

              I would not anticipate that people who use the word 'gourmet' would ever apply it to a plate of refried beans purchased from a taco truck no matter how fresh, or high quality the ingredients and preparation are.

              1. re: Steve

                Then has it come to mean snobby? Or foolish?

                1. re: atheorist

                  Yes, I believe it has become to mean snobby and foolish. Unless it can be applied across the board on everythibg from tacos to soon doo boo (and I don't mean the tacos have to be cooked with wagyu beef), then it will mean narrowminded and pretencious as well.

                2. re: Steve

                  I respectfully disagree with you Steve. One can be served 'slop' in a fancy building with fine china but if there ain't love in the food then even the fanciest of foods will fall short.
                  I'll happily recommend a few taco trucks where you'll find gourmet cusine!

                  1. re: jbyoga

                    I think we agree! But just because you and I might find a taco truck to be a gourmet experience, I'm pretty sure in common usage it is meant to imply a more exclusive experience.

              2. One possible way to think about it:

                Mac and Cheese - from a box.

                Gourmet mac and cheese - handmade noodles, perfectly aged gruyere cheese, Hungarian paprika, shredded Vidalia onions.

                1. IMHO many who like to give the impression that they are gormet's really are not, its only gormet to them if you need a wheelbarrow of cash and a magnifing glass to see your food!

                  1. I saw the "Gourmet Casserole" topic in the Home Cooking board, where the title made me think that it was a recipe from Gourmet magazine. Which is about the only place I see the word any more.

                    1. What makes something "gourmet"?
                      The marketing department.

                      1. It's whatever these things have in common:

                        Mille Lacs Gourmet Foods Beer Cheese Keg

                        Javafit Burn Functional Gourmet Coffee

                        Dave's Gourmet Insanity Salsa

                        Great Gourmet Super Surfer Country Crispy Clam Strips

                        Backpackers Pantry Gourmet Food Bag - Spicy cheese omelette

                        Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn

                        Best Friends Gourmet Dog Food

                        1 Reply
                          1. Gourmet, I think, molds to whatever it may be modifying, as an adjective. As I generally hear it, gourmet restaurant tends to imply higher quality ingredients, well-thought out/planned/intended preparation, and perhaps more exotic and innovative ingredients and prep. Gourmet dishes to me also imply higher quality or unusual ingredients or combinations of ingredients, and in the context of a gourmet dish for a dinner party, using ingredients that are often trendy. Gourmet dog food... less filler, less organs, more meat and untreated ingredients?

                            I think the advantage of using the word "gourmet," tacking it on gratuitously to whatever noun to increase that nouns's desirability, is the ability to automatically double the price. In my opinion, at this point, gourmet is merely a marketing strategy that succeeds on both ends-- it allows producers/sellers to charge higher prices, and it enables customers to feel like they are receiving a superior product (which inevitably often justifies to them the higher price).

                            1. Language is a living/changing things. Meanings and definitions change over time due to many factors, including marketing (which in the U.S. is a cultural phenomenon). Blame the new meaning of gourmet on marketing and culture.

                              1. The original definition is the best explanation of Gourmet I have come across. Yet ... Gourmet has been so OVER used that IMHO has lost it's value. ( Much like the word eclectic in describing a restaurant. Come on people,just because you can say the word doesn't mean 1: you're using it correctly, 2: or make you look smart.)