[UCP Books]: Smart Casual: The Transformation of Gourmet Restaurant Style in America

“If you have ever seen an open kitchen or enjoyed a tasting menu on a bar stool and wondered why, Smart Casual is certainly the book to read!”

Wylie Dufresne, chef of wd~50

 Smart Casual

The Transformation of Gourmet Restaurant Style in America
Alison Pearlman

Publication date: May 15, 2013 Cloth $25.00/£16.00
International publication date: 27 May 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0-226-65140-8


Gone are the days when fine dining meant chandeliers, white tablecloths, and suited waiters with elegant accents. Today it’s as much skinny jeans and bacon tattoos, taxidermy, and Edison bulbs. Once upon a time, it was unthinkable that a Michelin-starred chef would stoop to plate a humble burger or a taco in his kitchen. But tonight many of us will queue up for a seat at a loud, crowded noodle bar or eagerly seek out a farm-to-table restaurant with an open kitchen through which we can watch the staff plate housemade pickles and other wonders from mason jars. Haute has blurred with homey cuisine in the last few decades, but how did this radical change happen, and what does it say about current attitudes toward taste? Here with the answers is food writer Alison Pearlman. In Smart Casual, Pearlman investigates what she identifies as the increasing informality in the design of contemporary American restaurants.
By design, Pearlman does not just mean architecture. Her argument is more expansive—she is as interested in the style and presentation of food, the business plan, and the marketing of chefs as she is in the restaurant’s floor plan or menu design. Pearlman takes us hungrily inside the kitchens and dining rooms of restaurants coast to coast—from David Chang’s Momofuku noodle bar in New York to the seasonal, French-inspired cuisine of Alice Waters and Thomas Keller in California to the deconstructed comfort food of Homaro Cantu’s Moto in Chicago—to explore the different forms and flavors this casualization is taking. Smart Casual examines the assumed correlation between taste and social status, and argues that recent unsettling of these distinctions that has given rise to a new idea of sophistication, one that champions the omnivorous.
Alison Pearlman is a Los Angeles–based art historian and cultural critic who blogs under the name the Eye in Dining. She is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or cadams@press.uchicago.edu



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