Did Fusion Ever Die? Norman Van Aken Talks Shop
Fusion has been on the brain. Following our review on Florida's sushi-Thai, Sara Dickerman addresses the up-down of our relationship with fusion in Slate last week in Fusion Reaction: How America fell in love, then out of love, then in love all over again with Asian influenced cuisine. She wrote:
You won't hear much mention, these days, of "Asian fusion," let alone its dubious synonyms "Pacific Rim," "East-meets-West," or "Pan-Asian." But the truth is, the idea of a not-too-traditional take on Asian cookery is among the most dynamic in restaurants today. It's the duchy of Momofuku's David Chang, not to mention dozens of wave-making food trucks and pop-up shops from California to New York and it's the future, it would seem, of conscientious fast food, as Chipotle launches its Southeast-Asian-inspired ShopHouse concept... Fusion as a term may have become deeply unfashionable, but its influence is everywhere.
Florida chef Norman Van Aken borrowed the term fusion from jazz to describe how styles of cooking had evolved for a speech in 1988, she writes. Van Aken is director of restaurants at Miami Culinary Institute -- which includes Tuyo on the rooftop. His latest book, My Key West Kitchen , will debut in October. Van Aken has been recognized as a founder of New American cuisine, along with Alice Waters, Mark Miller, and Paul Prudhomme. He has received scores of awards and recognition from the James Beard Foundation and elsewhere.
So Clean Plate Charlie decided to follow up with Van Aken to ask him his
reaction to the article. Here's how he responded in a recent phone
Norman Van Aken: I don't know that I really care. When I wrote about fusion in the late '80s, it was for a speech in Santa Fe, where I was recognized with Lydia Shire and Charlie Trotter, among others. Someone suggested I make copies of the speech and put them on the chairs for the people in attendance. I think Regina Schrambling was the first reporter who picked it up for a column. Shortly after, I'd gone on book tour in 1988. So when I went around, newspapers wrote about my doing fusion, and it caught on from there.
On one hand, it's very admirable because you can get down to a more cellular level when it comes to food.
When I came to Key West before the onslaught of cruise ships, fast food, and food TV, the region was defined by Bahamian-Cuban cuisines. Then things shifted to mass-market dining of hot dogs and hamburgers. You could see regional dishes and ingredients slip into this mainstream thing.
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