For the past few decades, chefs around the world have been redefining cuisine as an art, extending the dining experience beyond merely consuming food and drink out of necessity. The term ‘foodie’ appeared in the early 1980s, as diners began to appreciate food as a hobby. New techniques in cooking, such as molecular gastronomy and 3D food printing have developed, and new genres of cuisine have also appeared.
New American is one of these genres, which has evolved in recent years. It is a style of cuisine that is almost entirely fluid and is commonly very difficult to define.
The United States itself is a melting pot of different cultures and their own methods of cooking food, and it is basically impossible to find a common definition of a genre that is constantly developing and changing. Simply put, New American is a fusion of cuisines that has global influence, with unique interpretation from the chef in the creation of each dish.
New American cuisine not only revitalizes food from the old days, but creates new flavors and combinations. And it’s still evolving! From Molecular Gastronomy (which has basically run its course and faded, except for those chefs and restaurants that are really doing it well), to New Nordic, where we’re foraging for everything. It’s all about that search for something or some flavor profile or technique that no one has ever had before.
Zagat notes that it began to emerge in the 1980s: “Seeking to innovate, chefs began to integrate other world cuisines (with a basis in French technique) into their repertoires. At the same time, there was [an] increase in demand for local, seasonal high-quality ingredients… [and] a heightened consciousness about health … consequently, chefs began looking for ways to produce healthier, more natural upscale food.”
The chefs at the time noticed that the best products were the ones that went from the earth to the plate as quickly as possible. This farm-to-table concept exploded our ability to produce high quality dishes – there was a major difference. And today, it’s become a very American way of cooking, by using what’s around us.
Chefs that categorize their food in the New American genre usually craft dishes that assimilate a variety of cooking techniques, flavors and spices from cuisine around the world. They often incorporate elements of French, Mediterranean, Asian, and Latin American cuisines into New American dishes. Food favorites such as pizza, salads, pastas and meat entrees are embellished with unusual flavors to create an entirely unique dish, or classic American items like a New York steak get a fresh, French twist in flavor when paired with mustard potato on the side. A New American take on roasted carrots, for example, is to serve them with mole negro sauce to bring in flavors of Mexican cuisine. Maine scallops become Asian-infused when cooked with Bok Choy and a saffron lobster broth.
This genre is most often found in more upscale and/or fine dining establishments, where the chef is practicing more creative and unique dishes and cooking techniques. It provides a category that allows room for us to experiment and play with market-to-table and farm-to-table ingredients. When we set up our Yelp profile, for instance, we had to choose a category, and “American (New)” seemed like the most fitting one. Chef Sam enjoys trying new (and improving on old) influences and techniques with all LloydMartin dishes.
New American is about discovering new styles of cuisine, and it’s not meant to be kept stagnant. There’s so much we haven’t embraced or even seen yet. New American has become the catch-all. At its heart, it isn’t meant to be capped – you’d be limiting the discovery.