Ood and Society: Report on Japanese Food & Cuisine

Briefing

Japanese cuisine and Japanese influenced cuisines have become a major culinary theme in contemporary restaurants. The scope reaches from high-end  chains such as Nobu, through mid-ranking restaurants, to the budget level. Japanese cookery has historical roots stretching back to the Middle Ages. Significant social and political changes have altered its trajectory since, but it remains a relatively hermetic cuisine  with its own cooking methods, ingredients, rituals and presentation.

Specialised food preparation, working methods, raw materials and chef s and the diner s equipment mark out Japanese food as a highly focused, disciplined cuisine. Chefs and gourmands further suggest part of its distinction lies in its exploitation of the so-called sixth sense of  umami  whose joining of the conventional five senses further enhances its individuality.

Yet, its profitable export to leading Western cities has seen it become embraced by an early-adopting, cutting edge group of consumers, drawn to its customs and restaurants by disparate elements ranging from its perceived health attributes, through its clean, simple presentation and colour palate, to A-list celebrity endorsement (actor Robert de Niro founded, and co-owns Nobu) and cool design.

In many ways Japanese food is, therefore, highly unique and highly successful. For all its supposed insularity, Japanese restaurants pricing spreads from high to low; it can be legitimately and traditionally eaten in a restaurant or in less formal surroundings; there is little class distinction in its traditions or dishes; and it has, perhaps, remained the most authentic cuisine to make the journey from its homeland to restaurants world wide.

Assignment 1 requires a detailed investigation and analysis of the spread of Japanese food, covering key areas:



History of the food  its roots in Japanese religion, geography/topography and social and political history

Study of traditional Japanese restaurants in Japan

Analysis of the spread and reasons for popularity of Japanese cuisine overseas, with reference to increasing business and industrial growth of post-war Japan

Study of the breadth of Japanese restaurants in London in terms of pricing, marketing, design and gastronomy

Appreciation of consumer patterns and lifestyle choices behind its popularity  specifically in the areas of style, marketing, health and celebrity endorsement

Textual and location analysis of menu design and construction, beverage offering, kitchen production patterns and delivery methods to table

Investigation of emerging distinction between  authentic Japanese restaurants, and stylised, often Western owned outlets