In the new millennium, American dining underwent a resurgence that may have peaked. Chefs rediscovered obscure ingredients, bartenders reincarnated classic cocktails and food trucks served gourmet fare. Every detail became a big thing: cheeseburgers, hot sauce, pizza, coffee, exotic cuisines, ramen stalls, craft breweries and small distilleries. Food journalist Kevin Alexander (writing before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry) chronicles this era with wit and insight, tracing trailblazing chefs and restaurateurs who redrew the culinary landscape.
“Burn the Ice” is restaurant slang for melting the ice at closing or breaking a glass in the ice well.
Until the mid-2000s, New York City and San Francisco, California were America’s culinary centers. “American” style cuisine developed in the 1950s and 1960s as Joe Baum opened several restaurants, including New York City’s Four Seasons. At Chez Panisse, Alice Waters started the French-West Coast hybrid that became California cuisine. Jonathan Waxman brought the movement to Los Angeles, sparking a culinary revival throughout the 1980s.
New Orleans, Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme created Nouvelle Creole. In Dallas, Texas, amazing chefs developed the Southwestern style. New York and San Francisco remained the culinary trailblazers until 2006, when unknown chefs in Portland, Oregon started producing noteworthy and locally sourced food, using previously ignored ingredients. Soon, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, had food scenes of their own.
The United States enjoyed a culinary renaissance for a number of reasons: a yearning for authenticity and craftsmanship, the rise of food television, the subsequent emergence...
Kevin Alexander is a food journalist and writer-at-large for Thrillist. A James Beard Award winner, he contributes to Esquire, Men’s Journal, The Boston Globe, Howler and other publications.