Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Rise of Humble Cuisine

Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle has a great piece about the results of the James Beard Awards and what they indicate about trends in the restaurant world. He sums it up as a shift of focus to chefs from smaller, neighborhood restaurants and takes it as a sign that "as a dining nation we are growing up":

Winning doesn't necessarily mean glitzy surroundings, high-profile names and chic locations; it's about how the people behind the stove translate their passion to diners.

I agree wholeheartedly, though I might give it a slightly different spin: "fine-dining fatigue." Diners are getting a little bit tired of the same old run-of-the-mill Wagyu beef and D'Artagnan duck and Kurobuta pork with inventive gastriques and playful vegetable sides. I'm sticking to my guns and still predicting that we're about to see a return to the good-ole-days of the grande cuisine, but until then chefs (like Best Chef Southeast winner Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill) who have taken the low and slow road of humble, high-quality downhome cooking will see their stars continue to rise.

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