American cooking trends of 2006 reflect the changing tastes of the nation's diners. The proliferation of the Food Network's shows, cooking schools, and celebrity chef cookbooks has opened America's eyes to a vast gourmet palette.
Diners want to try new tastes, explore unusual ingredients, and enjoy more ethnic dining experiences. Chefs have responded, building on traditional culinary education to create dining experiences using new cooking techniques, smaller portions, and ways for diners to sample a variety of menu items. These trends are changing the direction of many culinary careers as cooking schools teach their students to offer new and unusual menus.
Traditionally, few culinary careers involved much interaction with the general public. Only regular (or wealthy) patrons could talk to the chef about his or her culinary education, cooking philosophies, and that night's menu. This gap is no longer as omnipresent as it once was. With chef's tables available by reservation rather than invitation, diners are able to enjoy the chance to connect with a chef.
Culinary schools often teach students to specialize in one style of cooking, such as French or American. Many chefs have built culinary careers on fusing cooking styles and experimenting with new ingredients. Some chefs are taking their style a step further and focusing menus around one ingredient.
Thematic menus have long been standard in Japan and Italy, where cooks are more in tune with seasonal ingredients. American cooking schools now emphasize being creative and flexible with menus. A chef in New Orleans recently prepared an entire tasting menu--including dessert--around asparagus.
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The "all-appetizers" concept that was once exclusive to Spanish tapas and Chinese dim sum has reached American shores as well. While a traditional culinary education may teach that more is better, chefs are finding that customers prefer to order mini-meals so that they can taste each other's food and sample multiple items.
Cooking schools have had to change some of their courses to accommodate this new culinary trend. Now, in addition to learning how to handle large batches of dishes for catering, culinary students learn the art of making small portions for sampling. Modern culinary education requires learning to make everything from tiny desserts that diners mix and match to "sampler flights" that test the range of a chef.
The Rise of Vacuum Sealing
Many chefs are discovering something they may have previously thought impossible: vacuum-packing food and cooking the sealed meal in simmering water can actually enhance its taste. Cooking school students might be surprised to find themselves working with a heavy-duty FoodSaver, but the results can be pleasing to patrons.
The culinary industry changes in response to globally-inspired trends and customer demand. Take advantage of a contemporary dining experience and reserve a chef's table or try a themed meal. The variety and creativity of these experiences can create a memorable gourmet experience for both the culinary student and restaurant patron.