Synonymous with abundance of produce and turbo-charged with chef creativity, the Golden State of California is setting the pace of food trends worldwide
Last year, I made a career move that lead me to leave one of the best food cities in the world (London), across the pond to sunny California, the state known as a dominant and influential force in American dining. Working in food PR, I knew this would be an exciting move.
It’s no surprise California, even more so, Los Angeles has an abundance of authentic Mexican eateries, including streets lined with food trucks that have driven straight over the border. But what many don’t realise is L.A. is melting pot of many cultures that often goes unnoticed by those who have never visited the city, and offers some of the most diverse cuisines from all across the world and is at the forefront of experimentation, including fusions such as Mexican/Korean and Latin/Asian.
In just a short time since living here, I’ve quickly grown to truly appreciate how lucky I am to live in a city where I could walk down a few blocks to get the best tacos I’ve ever tasted, and the next day, enjoy really good Thai food just a couple more blocks further. And that counts for each area, each pocket of this huge city.
This West Coast food scene is a relatively new phenomenon. Of course, California has for decades been the paradise of plenty, from which chefs, farmers, and eaters alike all embraced the seasonal, local, farm-to-table philosophy that is now the bread and butter and backbone of this state’s cuisine.
Now, with a reach that spans the continent, California holds the space for both deep tradition and wild experimentation. I have been lucky enough to travel to a number or countries in Asia, Europe and the middle east and have tasted some of the most excellent flavours and dishes I could imagine. But constantly I find myself wanting to return to California, not only to revel in the obvious (its weather!) but its food scene has always been a big draw for me – the freshness of its food, but also its level of creativity and diverse choice always left me wanting more.
So, what makes this city the gastronomic city it is today?
L.A. is home to a new generation of young chefs from different cultural backgrounds (think Filipino, Thai, Mexican) who have shaped and continue to shape L.A.’s food identity. It’s a melting pot of talent that has access to the best produce with an eager audience willing and waiting to try their food. This stems from consumers now wanting to constantly try new things, new experiences, new flavours, new dishes – and this is something L.A. offers consumers very, very well.
L.A. being L.A., the pinnacle of social acceptance, it would be foolish to ignore the dramatic effect social media has had on this city and how it has affected the eating out scene. Social media in general has been great to help promote restaurants and food in L.A.
Out of all of them, Instagram has had the biggest impact because it is a such a visual platform which works well for the culinary world. Some dishes photograph well and have that “wow” factor. The same goes for restaurants. It’s all about “doing it for the gram” and getting the money shot with guaranteed “likes.” This will drive people (near or far) to that restaurant just so they can get a shot of that food item to post on their Instagram. Most restaurants in the city now create dishes with Instagram in mind which shows how powerful the platform is for a restaurant. On the flip side, chefs and restaurateurs are constantly having to think outside the box in order to cut through the ever-populated scene – but it is definitely something this city does well and stands out from the rest.
As an “outsider” and having not grown up in the city, like many, I am attracted to this city for a number of reasons – food being a big one. I think what keeps people travelling and relocating to L.A. is its creativity, wide range of high-quality food options, and international variety. You can have the best waffles at a coffee shop in DTLA for breakfast, followed by tacos out of a truck by a French-trained chef in Venice for lunch, ending with dinner at a California themed fine-dining healthy focused eatery in Hollywood. There truly is something for everyone whether you’re on a tight budget or not. And the one consistent theme is that the food quality is ALWAYS high.
L.A. is truly an institution for delicious food, and while the city is known more for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the food scene is finally getting the respect it deserves.