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That's so 80s

On Hell's Kitchen a few nights ago a dish was ridiculed for being too 80s. This has come up on the show before, and each time I look at the dish and wonder what's so wrong with it. Are there characteristics that denote dishes as coming from the 80s (the 90s? the 00s)?

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  1. Not having seen this particular episode, if the dish in question was miniscule in portion, yet somehow stacked vertically and ostentatiously dressed with a mango ginger coulis, it would've been more 80s than Max Headroom. Blackened everything also seemed to be a thing back then.

    20 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      JungMann, you hit it almost exactly - IIRC it was a stacked crab salad with fruit and avocado and frisee.

      1. re: jujuthomas

        I thought the dish sounded more 70's than 80's..

        1. re: jujuthomas

          Ring mold of stacked crab, avocado, and mango!

        2. re: JungMann

          Hey, JungMann: boy did you nail it. Vertical, miniscule and overdone.

          My eighties representation would be: anything on bruschetta. Of course I know it's been done for much, much longer - every culture has their version - but it seems like it was in the eighties that they just exploded; they were ubiquitous. I'm not saying they weren't good, because they were fine and I make them all the time; just that they were very very very everywhere back in the day. :)
          Sushi isn't TOO eighties, but that's sure when it started to take off. By the nineties? Oh, my word; you could hardly find a restaurant that didn't serve it. Ok, exaggeration; but it seemed like it. And by the oughts, that sushi was being refigured into other cultures' food. Again, not a bad thing; just how it happened.

          1. re: mamachef

            I think that's one of the problems I have with food styling, in that if something is a good presentation one year why not ten years later? I have to think that if presentation changes along with fashion then it was gimmicky presentation to begin with (as opposed to things you can still do, like sushi and bruschetta).

              1. re: ennuisans

                But wasn't that the point of the critique? If you place the styling down to a decade or less, it's a fad. If you can't, it's classic.

                1. re: GH1618

                  aren' t there just some whole dishes that are just kind of 80s or 70s or .. well for want of a better word "no longer fashionable"? perhaps because they were the bees knees in those decades or something. for example - duck a l'orange, shrimp cocktail and canapes. and for me dishes like beef bourguignon, or oddly enough, beef wellington, always feel pompous and 70s/80s to me. thats probably just me of course.

                  1. re: timpani_mimi

                    There are definitely dishes that evoke a certain decade...
                    Rumaki, Fondue...baked Alaska!

                    But, so what?
                    I'd make 'em and serve 'em - even if it wasnt a retro party!

                    If they tasted good in the '70's - they'll still taste good today!
                    No?

                    1. re: NellyNel

                      Were Steak Diane and Crepes Suzette still around in the 80s, or had that died off by then?

                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                        Steak Diane was a mid to late '70's thing. I was a cook at a high end joint then. We had a 20 something waiter who wore crushed velvet tux's and had the Prince Valiant hair (he was a coke head) His specialty was to prepare Steak Diane "tableside" everyone requested "Alberto" for they're waiter. Especially the older monied widows. Most of us thought he was earning extra income for providing "services". Steak Diane was on it's way out arount '78-'79, along with the big heavy 3ft long peppermills "Fresh pepper for your salad sir?"

                        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                          I still see the monster pepper mills occasionally. Never understood what was luxurious about having a flunky to grind your pepper for you. I think the custom was invented as a way to stop customers from stealing (normal sized) pepper mills.

                          1. re: emu48

                            Yep, they're definitely still around. Maybe not 3 feet tall, but certainly a foot or more.

                            As for getting that ground pepper onto your food - at one "better dining" place not so long ago my waiter was MIA and I finally walked over to the service station where it and the equally tall salt grinder were prominently placed and grabbed it to grind pepper myself. Of course, my waiter materialized out of thin air (or from wherever he was hiding) then...

                            1. re: huiray

                              Three-foot grinders are still around. Saw one at Chamberlain's Steak and Chop House in Dallas Monday night that looked like a bazooka.

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                Interesting choice of term./ In the 1930's, 1940's, Lucius Beebe was howling about those pepper mills as being "the size of howitzers." His sense of affront was akin to being presented with a bottle of Dom Perignon sealed with a blob of plastic.

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  I wasn't affronted, but I was afraid that damned thing was gonna go off!

                    2. re: timpani_mimi

                      Beef bourguignon is a classic dish and not the least bit "pompous." It would only seem trendy if it were overused during a certain period, but will never be considered a passing fad, in my opinion.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        Agreed. Made it this past weekend and it was, as usual, very good.

                        1. re: GH1618

                          It's one of those dishes we started cooking in the 80s and still do, now & again.

                2. re: JungMann

                  Yep yep. Now that you put it in those words I can "get" that as a style, but had no idea it started in the 80s. One thing that home cooking books and websites lack is talk about presentation, at least on this level.

                3. Did they serve wine coolers to wash it down?

                  1. Green beans, or in menu-speak, haricots verts

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: BiscuitBoy

                      Oh, now there we go...all those baby, or micro-veg. Yep.

                      1. re: mamachef

                        The late, great, Erma Bombeck mentioned "vegicide" (the murder of baby vegetables) in one of her columns, along with "tiny dabs of food on huge white plates." I was in college in the 80's, and didn't have any money, so I was spared from the trends - thank goodness!

                      1. There was a lot of blow going on in the 80's and the dishes were minimalistic artistically bad food.
                        Wasn't the 'Real men eat quiche' thing going on?

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          Yeah, and "fern bars" and things like being served a glass of white zin while waiting for you're "cut" at the salon. Blow was turning to crack.

                          1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                            OMG - Is that Cannon, Mrbigshot???
                            LOVE Cannon!

                            1. re: NellyNel

                              Yeah, I was a teenager when it came out and my dad loved the show, I saw some reruns on MeTV and about flipped out, what a great show (sometimes corny)' I bought all the episodes they had at Amazon, really enjoy them and reminice (sp) about the "good old days", I'm really amazed at how quick thinking and intellegent his character was. Bill Conrad was a great actor!

                              1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                So cool!
                                I didn't watch it as a kid, sort of vaugely remember it though..and then I caught it on Metv, and I watched it...and now I dvr it each day!
                                I agree, his character is so cool and intelligent, and love the little bits that seem almost ad-libbed..
                                Agree, Bill Conrad was a great actor, and that voice is exraordinary!
                                I was reading his bio, and was surprised to know he was the voice behind that famous Crying Indian anti-pollution campaign: "People start pollution - people can stop it!"
                                Of course - I can hear it now!

                                Thanks for the smile mrbig!

                          2. re: Beach Chick

                            It was "real men don't eat quiche."