Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness

Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness

Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness

Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness


In this authoritative and immensely readable insider's account, celebrated cookbook author and former chef Joyce Goldstein traces the development of California cuisine from its formative years in the 1970s to 2000, when farm-to-table, foraging, and fusion cooking had become part of the national vocabulary. Interviews with almost two hundred chefs, purveyors, artisans, winemakers, and food writers bring to life an approach to cooking grounded in passion, bold innovation, and a dedication to "flavor first." Goldstein explains how the counterculture movement in the West gave rise to a restaurant culture characterized by open kitchens, women in leadership positions, and a surprising number of chefs and artisanal food producers who lacked formal training. The new cuisine challenged the conventional kitchen hierarchy and French dominance in fine dining, leading to a more egalitarian and informal food scene.

In weaving Goldstein's views on California food culture with profiles of those who played a part in its development--from Alice Waters to Bill Niman to Wolfgang Puck--Inside the California Food Revolution demonstrates that, while fresh produce and locally sourced ingredients are iconic in California, what transforms these elements into a unique cuisine is a distinctly Western culture of openness, creativity, and collaboration. Engagingly written and full of captivating anecdotes, this book shows how the inspirations that emerged in California went on to transform the experience of eating throughout the United States and the world.


In the mid-1970s, a handful of innovative, mostly self-taught chefs and restaurateurs in California felt driven to create a dining experience very different from what prevailed at the time. Their new approach, featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients and creative interpretations of flavor themes from cuisines around the world, captured people’s attention. Eventually labeled “California cuisine,” it engendered a revolution in Americans’ relationship with food through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Styles of restaurants broadened from formal and ceremonial to more democratic and casual. Kitchens that had been hidden were opened up to become part of the dining room. Chefs who had toiled behind closed doors in anonymity became stars. Ingredients such as arugula, baby greens, and goat cheese, virtually unknown previously, became household items for many. Today, in large part because of the influence of California cuisine, both restaurant and home cooking inhabit a radically new world. People now have expectations for freshness, flavor, variety, and healthfulness that are very different from those of the previous generation.

Many people currently working in restaurant kitchens or shopping at farmers’ markets are unfamiliar with the early chefs, farmers, and artisans who brought about the California culinary revolution. Apart from recognizing the names of a few celebrities, they do not know very much about the pioneers of California cuisine whose efforts and persistence have made life in the restaurant and culinary worlds easier and more gratifying for us today.

They are not aware of the work it took to get to where we are now, to our easy familiarity with terms like fresh, seasonal, and local. They don’t give much thought to the fact that forty years ago most of this was just a dream. That is why I wrote this book.

What I found most interesting and exciting about the California cuisine revolution was that it was led largely by autodidacts. I was amazed at how many of the . . .

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