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date: 26 May 2024

The Tasting Menufree

The Tasting Menufree

  • Alison PearlmanAlison PearlmanDepartment of Art, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


[This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Food Studies. Please check back later for the full article.]

A tasting menu is a set multi-course meal that a restaurant offers for a single price (also called prix fixe). Diners must surrender their choice in what they eat and in how many courses. Restaurants throughout the world, at various price points, with casual or formal service, in lengthy or concise lists, offer tasting menus. But this pervasiveness and variety did not always exist. The tasting menu underwent internationalization and diversification.

The form originated among an ambitious generation of French fine-dining chefs, the instigators of nouvelle cuisine. While visiting Japan in the 1960s, they encountered the centuries-old tradition of formal kaiseki meals. They subsequently adapted the format, calling the result a menu dégustation, or tasting menu. It borrowed the extraordinary artfulness and the set, multi-course structure of kaiseki yet emphasized radical departure from tradition beyond the improvisation and invention kaiseki allowed.

The international fame and influence of the nouvelle chefs, assisted by a growth spurt in culinary media, established the tasting menu as the ultimate proving ground for the chef as a creative individual. Subsequent changes in the styles and locations of tasting menus derive primarily from shifts in how chefs achieve professional distinction, the dynamics of culinary media, the growth of gastronomic consumption, and fashions in aesthetics and ethics.


  • Food History and Anthropology