Chefs need to learn about classic cuisines to become grounded in classic foods and techniques customers want. Cuisines in South America use fresh and dried foods while European chefs use lots of animal fats, wheat, and locally available produce. In Northern countries, whole grains, butter, and slow cooking flavor many foods, but the south favors olive oil, rice and pasta. India developed many vegetarian dishes for religious, cultural and practical reasons since meat often proves scarce.
Great Cuisines Need Study to Master
The greatest cuisines include French, Indian, Chinese, Italian, and Thai cooking. Some people include Turkish foods that marry European and Asian flavors in a regional fusion. Other popular choices include Japanese, Brazilian, and Mexican.
- French – France places great emphasis on food and wine, and the entire culture celebrates food. Escoffier created the modern working kitchen, but many classic dishes used every part of food, and chefs created heavy sauces to mask questionable foods in the days before refrigeration. Nouvelle cuisine cuts cooking times and uses only the freshest ingredients. Chefs choose light pan sauces, herbs, fruit juices and vinegars instead of heavy sauces.
- Indian – The food of India weaves a complex tapestry of spices and techniques, favoring vegetables over meats. When using meat, Indian chefs cook chicken, goat, lamb and fish. Chefs and diners need to start slowly and gradually become accustomed to the heat in most Indian cooking. Three regional cuisines use different styles of cooking in the South, West and East.
- Italian – Italian meals have developed over thousands of years, and the country uses fabulous cheeses in over 400 varieties, dried meats, 300 kinds of sausages, dozens of pastas, and an astonishing wealth of Mediterranean produce. The tomato that many people think defines Italian cooking has only existed in the cuisine since the discovery of the new world. Italy has always revered local sourcing, and foods available locally influence regional cuisines throughout the country.
- Chinese – More than one-third of the world’s population eats Chinese food, and most civilized people eat Chinese cuisine as their favorite change from traditional diets. The cooking style uses fresh vegetables lightly cooked, small servings of meat, and highly structured methods of food preparation. Steaming preserves nutrients, desserts have light sugar content, and fish dishes feature heavily on the menu. For these reasons, Chinese food offers a healthier style of eating.
- Thai – Thai chefs balance the flavors of hot, sour, bitter and sweet. Getting the right balance of flavors makes any cuisine extraordinary. Rice, fish sauce, noodles, lime juice, coconut, peanuts and lemon grass figure prominently in Thai cuisine.
Why Chefs Must Study World Cuisines
Global marketing, world travel, population diversity, and food information available online have whetted diners’ appetites to try international flavors. Anyone planning a culinary career must prepare to meet this evolving trend by learning the basics of other cuisines and adapting their ingredients and techniques.
Cuisines include not only countries but also regional cooking styles. For example, the American Southwest features blending of Texan and Mexican foods commonly known as Tex-Mex. Louisiana classic or city cooking often takes the name Creole, and more rustic or country dishes get labeled Cajun. The truth proves more complex, but Cajun-Creole fusion cuisine ranks as one of the most popular cooking styles in America and the world. Chefs who learn the basics can join diverse cooking methods to create signature menus that will enjoy popularity among a broad section of diners.