In the 1970s, Japanese cooks began to appear in the kitchens of nouvelle cuisine chefs in France for further training, with scores more arriving in the next decades. Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Joël Robuchon, and other leading French chefs started visiting Japan to teach, cook, and sample Japanese cuisine, and ten of them eventually opened restaurants there. In the 1980s and 1990s, these chefs' frequent visits to Japan and the steady flow of Japanese stagiaires to French restaurants in Europe and the United States encouraged a series of changes that I am calling the “Japanese turn,” which found chefs at fine-dining establishments in Los Angeles, New York City, and later the San Francisco Bay Area using an ever-widening array of Japanese ingredients, employing Japanese culinary techniques, and adding Japanese dishes to their menus. By the second decade of the twenty-first century, the wide acceptance of not only Japanese ingredients and techniques but also concepts like umami (savory tastiness) and shun (seasonality) suggest that Japanese cuisine is now well known to many American chefs.
The “Japanese Turn” in Fine Dining in the United States, 1980–2020
Samuel H. Yamashita is the Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History at Pomona College. He has written several papers on food in World War II Japan and recently published Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine: The Food Movement That Changed the Way Hawai‘i Eats (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2019).
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Samuel H. Yamashita; The “Japanese Turn” in Fine Dining in the United States, 1980–2020. Gastronomica 1 May 2020; 20 (2): 45–54. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2020.20.2.45
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