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Smart Casual: The Transformation of Gourmet Restaurant Style in America Hardcover – April 15, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (April 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226651401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226651408
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #958,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

America’s restaurants have undergone virtual revolution in the past several decades. Thanks in no small part to the ubiquity of food television, patrons have grown ever more knowledgeable and demanding about what they are served. They also want excitement and drama, just like what they see on the tube, and a restaurant’s “vibe” or lack of one profoundly influences its success. At the same time, strict rules of etiquette for dining in public have largely disappeared. Foods such as offal, rarely seen on twentieth-century American menus, now dominate. Flourishing and popular restaurants must cater to a range of tastes and daily need to challenge diners with novel approaches to serving and eating. Pearlman visits dozens of today’s restaurants and reports on how they meet contemporary expectations with fresh interior design, innovative cooking, and daring business plans. Culinary students and budding restaurateurs will definitely profit from Pearlman’s research. --Mark Knoblauch


“If you have ever seen an open kitchen or enjoyed a tasting menu on a bar stool and wondered why, Smart Casual is certainly the book to read!”
(Wylie Dufresne, chef of wd~50)

"Drawing from personal dining experiences, interviews with chefs and an eye for detail sharpened by years as an art historian, Alison Pearlman explores how gourmet restaurant style in America has shifted away from the maître d’s stand and toward a 'come as you are' mentality over the past several decades. Open-kitchen concepts, relaxed dress codes and haute upgrades to everyday favorites (remember the gourmet hamburger trend?) all come under Pearlman’s insightful study in this quick read, making it a perfect accompaniment for solo trips to Tastemaker Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery or fellow Tastemaker David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar—New York eateries that represent the scope of Pearlman’s commentary to a casual, tasty T."

(Forbes Travel Guide)

“Alison Pearlman knows not only what we want to eat, but where we want to eat it, and how we want it served. She shows us how we changed the food-service industry (and how it changed our expectations of it). The amazing thing is she does this in a book that informs, intrigues, and often amuses us. Who knew a book about business could be so delightfully tasty?”
(Gary Allen, author of The Herbalist in the Kitchen)

“Alison Pearlman’s Smart Casual is a delicious romp through America’s rapidly changing and diverging restaurant scene. It begins with the old haute cuisine establishments frequented by the upscale, well-to-do diners, but concentrates on contemporary restaurants with their experimental, innovative, and exotic cuisines. It is an informative, witty, and delightful book brimming with hot anecdotes and tangy tidbits. It is a must read for all serious foodies.”
(Andrew F. Smith, Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink)

“Among all the books about shifts in American taste during the past few decades, this stands out as the most meticulously detailed, insightful, and well researched, including interviews and even first hand experience. Pearlman captures perfectly the shift in gastronomic sensibilities, the demise of stuffy white-tableclothed shrines, and the rise of good, honest food served without pretension. This study is erudite and hip, written with both verve and a keen analytical eye.”
(Ken Albala, author of Pancake: A Global History)

"Alison Pearlman visits dozens of today’s restaurants and reports on how they meet contemporary expectations with fresh interior design, innovative cooking, and daring business plans. Culinary students and budding restaurateurs will definitely profit from Pearlman’s research."

 "Smart Casual is concise and well researched. . . . It should serve as a useful addition to food studies, cultural studies, sociology, and design history collections. Recommended."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gretchen Varkonyi on June 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Pearlman's Smart Casual is a truly ambitious undertaking, and she rises to the challenge of taking us through "the transformation of gourmet restaurant style in America" with bushels of industry blurb presented in a deliciously palatable format for the reader. Like those cooks who puree spinach and bake it into the brownies, the book is chock full of really-good-for-you stuff like how and why gourmet restaurants with invisible chefs in invisible kitchens have evolved into celebrity status chefs with open and interactive kitchens, the carefully calculated design and lighting of those kitchens, and how social and cultural trends have spurred the popularity of cookbooks, recreational cooking classes, and vacation travel as destination eating. And that's a mere morsel: From Jose Andres's minibar in DC to Alice Waters' Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Ms. Pearlman table-hops us through a mouth-watering journey of meals, trendy and traditional, and provides the hip, informed dinner conversation as well - meticulously researched and ladled out with a fresh voice, a dry wit and an undeniably deep appreciation for food and its social and cultural currency. An edifying read!
G. Varkonyi, Caterer & Chef
The Dinner Dame
Providence, RI
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