It looks like a regular chicken sandwich and fries. Look more closely! Photo courtesy SushiSamba | Coral Gables.
WHAT IS FUSION CUISINE?
According to an article in Nation’s Restaurant News, Florida chef Norman Van Aken claims to have coined the term in the late 1980s, writing a treatise on the subject in late 1988 or early 1989. In it, he described how he incorporated the flavors and dishes of the Caribbean with European cooking techniques and traditions.
He wanted to salvage the vibrant Caribbean flavors of old Key West by fusing them—his words—with contemporary American cuisine. The idea was a cornerstone of the “Floribbean” cuisine that emerged in South Florida, developed by Van Aken, Allen Susser, Mark Militello and Douglas Rodriguez, among others. Even before then, we remember a French restaurant that used Japanese ingredients in New York City (alas, long closed).
Fine dining pioneers like these began to evolve American cuisine 1990s, crossing their French culinary training with global ingredients. It led to fusion dishes like wasabi mashed potatoes, served at top restaurants, down to the barbecue chicken pizza, Thai pizza and numerous other fusions at California Pizza Kitchen.
Fusion is alive and well in more recent creations like cronuts, Korean tacos, ramen burgers and Thanksgiving tortillas (turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce rolled in a tortilla). The younger generations may thing of fusion as culinary mash-ups.