The Cuisine of California is a cuisine marked by an interest in "fusion"— integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients— and which, influenced by the state's health-conscious tradition, tends to be freshly prepared. The food is typically prepared with particularly strong attention to presentation.
Alice Waters, of the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley , California , is usually credited with originating California cuisine and retains the reputation of offering the ultimate California cuisine experience. Her cuisine emphasizes the freshest ingredients which are in season and are procured solely from local farms. Wolfgang Puck, from the Spago restaurants, popularized California cuisine by catering high profile celebrity parties such as the Oscar after party. Puck became a celebrity in his own right, one of the first celebrity chefs.
Besides the cooking style, the cuisine is characterized by an abundance of fruits and vegetables as the state is one of the major agricultural centers of the United States . Some locally grown produce that are less common in other parts of the country include:
- Fresh figs
- Fresh dates
In the northern coastal regions of the state, Dungeness crabs, salmon and oysters are in abundance during the season
Burgers and fast food
California originated the drive-through fast food now popular world wide. It was home to the first McDonald's and other fast-food chains such as Carl's Jr., Jack in the Box and Taco Bell. In-N-Out , Del Taco, Original Tommy's, and Fatburger are also California natives. A notable absence in types of Californian hamburgers is the Slyder, a smaller hamburger that originated in areas of the country that were not as economically robust. Californian-style burgers typically are much larger than other regional varieties. In many restaurants you can order 1/2lb, 3/4lb and 1lb patties.
As one of the U.S. states nearest Asia , the state tends to adopt Asian foods fairly liberally. The American sushi craze no doubt began in California ; these days, items like mochi ice cream and boba are popular.
Mexican and South American influences
In addition to traditional and/or commercialized "Mexican" food, California restaurants serve up Honduran, Oaxacan and nearly every other variation of South American food there is. For example, Pupusarias are common in areas with a large population of Salvadorians (Pupusas are somewhat like a stuffed tortilla from El Salvador ).
Of late, "Fresh Mex" or "Baja-style" Mexican food, which places an emphasis on fresh ingredients and sometimes seafood, is highly popular. For example, the El Pollo Loco ("The Crazy Chicken") fast food chain that originated in Northern Mexico , and serves marinated grilled chicken, is a common sight.
The state's somewhat health-conscious lifestyle means that frying or battering foods is rarer in California than elsewhere, although, there are, of course, exceptions, fish tacos and tempura being two examples.