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California cuisine is a food movement that originated in California. The cuisine focuses on dishes that are driven by local and sustainable ingredients with an attention to seasonality and an emphasis on the bounty of the region.
The food is historically chef-driven. Foods low in saturated fats and high in fresh vegetables and fruits with lean meats and seafood from the California coast often define the style. The term California cuisine arose as a result of culinary movements in the last decades and should not be confused with the traditional foods of California. French cuisine, American cuisine, Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Chinese cuisine, and Japanese cuisine have all influenced Californian fusion cuisine, though this is by no means a complete list of influencing cultures.
One of the first proponents of using fresh, locally available foods was Helen Evans Brown, who became friends with James Beard after publishing Helen Brown's West Coast Cookbook in 1952. She advocated using fruits and spices available in one's own neighborhood, forgoing poor grocery store substitutes, as well as fresh seafood, caught locally. The book received wide acclaim and became the "template" for what is now thought of as California cuisine.Alice Waters, who opened Chez Panisse restaurant in 1971 in Berkeley, California, has contributed significantly to the concept of California Cuisine.
About the same time, in Yountville in the Napa Valley, Sally Schmitt began serving single-menu monthly dinners that emphasized local ingredients, continuing the concept when she and her husband Don opened The French Laundry in 1978.
In Los Angeles, Wolfgang Puck was also an early pioneer of California cuisine; starting with his work at Patrick Terrail’s Ma Maison, and further work with Ed LaDou on California-style pizza at Spago and Asian fusion at Chinois on Main. Mark Peel, who worked for both Waters and Puck, went on to co-found La Brea Bakery and Campanile Restaurant with his then-wife Nancy Silverton. As executive chef, he mentored other up-and-coming chefs. “Campanile has played an important role in shaping the cuisine of Southern California and beyond, not just through its menu but also through the many graduates of its kitchen.”
- "The birth of California cuisine is generally traced back to Alice Waters in the 1970s and her restaurant Chez Panisse. Waters introduced the idea of using natural, locally grown fresh ingredients to produce her dishes. California cuisine is... local, based like most traditional regional cooking on available ingredients including abundant seafood. Fresh vegetables, lightly cooked, and fresh fruits, berries, and herbs characterize the cuisine generally, but California cooking is also in fact a fusion of cooking from around the world." Benjamin F. Shearer Culture and Customs of the United States Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 ISBN 0-313-33877-9, 440, page 212
- Goldstein, Joyce (2013). Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years that Changed Our culinary Consciousness. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. pp. 3–5. ISBN 978-0-520-26819-7.
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Because of Waters, we now have lighter, fresher California cuisine based on locally-grown, seasonal food
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- Goldstein, Joyce (2013). Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years that Changed our Culinary Consciousness. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. pp. 3–5. ISBN 978-0-520-26819-7.
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