August 25, 2017

What are some of the world’s most influential culinary cities? New York, Paris and… Los Angeles? Not only is LA’s food scene bumping, it’s also driven largely by its immigrant population. Our host Kara Miller spoke with University of Southern California professor Josh Kun and LA food writer Tien Nguyen during a recent food journey out west.

Three Takeaways 

  • Kun says restaurant menus often reflect what’s going on in our country at a certain time. He recalls one World War II menu in particular that reprinted a newspaper ad encouraging patrons to buy defense stamps because, “Every defense stamp you buy helps send a Jap to hell.”
  • Nguyen says today’s food writers pay a lot more attention to culturally diverse foods than they did even a decade ago. Before 2005, Nguyen said most restaurant reviews focused on places that were run by white male chefs and promoted a Eurocentric menu. Now, casual and non-European food has made its way into the spotlight.
  • The rise of the internet had a huge hand in shifting people’s focus toward more affordable restaurants. Food bloggers had — and for the most part, still have — a restrictive budget. So if it’s between going broke on the duck a l’orange or digging into an inexpensive taco, bloggers often review the cheaper restaurant. As food bloggers gained more influence, the visibility of the restaurants they reviewed grew, too.

More reading 

Josh Kun, Tien Nguyen, higher ed, innovation hub, Kara Miller, WGBH, Los Angeles, pri

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