What is Gourmet Cooking?

Dee S.
Dee S.

Gourmet cooking is defined by some people as culinary art. It is often called haute cuisine and is usually associated with intricate preparations of food and drink and elaborate, artful presentations. Gourmet cooks typically use ingredients that are of the freshest and the best quality.

Many cookbooks are available that focus on gourmet cooking.
Many cookbooks are available that focus on gourmet cooking.

When many people think of gourmet cooking, they often think of multi-course meals that are drenched in rich sauces and laden with butter, oils, and unique spices; this is not always the case, however. It has evolved over time to include natural, healthful, global, and socially responsible fare as well. Of course, it is up to the chef to implement these aspects into gourmet cooking. For example, a gourmet chef may choose to use all organic ingredients or ingredients that are only grown locally. In addition, a gourmet restaurant may only serve vegetarian or vegan items for people who are morally opposed to eating meat or animal by-products.

Morel mushrooms are rare and popular in gourmet cooking.
Morel mushrooms are rare and popular in gourmet cooking.

One of the main characteristic that is consistent through all forms of gourmet cooking is the use of ingredients that are of the highest quality. The seafood, meat, vegetables, fruits, and spices are usually fresh. Sometimes an ingredient is quite rare, such as the case with morel mushrooms. The result is that a dish using the ingredient can often be quite expensive.

Gourmet cooks use the finest ingredients available.
Gourmet cooks use the finest ingredients available.

Typically, gourmet meals are creatively prepared, giving consumers an artistic masterpiece using food as the medium instead of paint, clay, or pencils. For example, there may be ornate designs on the plate that are made from a brightly colored sauce. There may also be tall towers of delicate foods, creating a unique dimension to the mealtime experience.

Many people enjoy gourmet cooking at a restaurant to celebrate occasions.
Many people enjoy gourmet cooking at a restaurant to celebrate occasions.

There are several ways to learn how to do gourmet cooking. For example, culinary schools across the globe offer classes for people who want to become gourmet chefs. Many of those same cooking schools have classes where the public can learn some techniques for cooking gourmet meals and gourmet-inspired recipes as well. In addition there are several magazines, websites, cookbooks, and television shows that focus only on gourmet cooking. These sources may provide people with recipes, basic techniques, and other instructions for creating a gourmet meal.

Chocolate mousse is a popular gourmet dessert.
Chocolate mousse is a popular gourmet dessert.

Gourmet cooking may not be for everyone. Some people may consider it to be rather elitist or snobbish. A chef or restaurant owner can either cultivate that feeling of elitism or she can add external factors to dismiss that feel. For example, a friendly smile at the reservation desk or a genuine waiter or waitress can change the entire experience at many gourmet restaurants. In addition, gourmet cooking at the home nearly always has a more laid-back feel.

Gourmet chefs often devise signature menus and dishes that may make or break their culinary reputation.
Gourmet chefs often devise signature menus and dishes that may make or break their culinary reputation.
Dee S.
Dee S.

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to wiseGEEK.

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Discussion Comments

Ana1234

@clintflint - I think that gourmet is one of those words that changes a little bit as the style changes. I'd think of gourmet food as being whatever is currently expensive and in fashion, rather than being a particular type of meal.

For a while it seemed that tiny little portions were considered to be gourmet, but these days it seems to be divided between gastronomic science based meals and extremely traditional, freshly grown produce that has been processed as little as possible.

It would be interesting to see what you'd learn at a gourmet cooking school as well. To me, gourmet is just a general term that crosses quite a few different cultures and possibilities.

clintflint

@irontoenail - I don't know if I would call experimental meals gourmet. I really think of gourmet as being more of a luxury thing and associate it with rich and traditional meals, rather than the cutting edge kinds of meals you often get at top restaurants these days.

I feel like you actually have to say if something is healthy gourmet cooking, because the assumption will otherwise be that it's not healthy, or at least that it's traditional and not concerned with nutrition so much as with taste.

irontoenail

If you ever want to see absolutely amazing examples of what can be possible in gourmet cooking, you should check out the original Iron Chef show, that broadcast in Japan. There are often reruns on the cooking channels.

The things those chefs could achieve in only a small amount of time was astonishing. They would really make the plate look like a work of art, to the point where I would feel bad about eating it.

And often they seemed to be experimenting with ingredients as well, which must be pretty difficult.

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