CASUALIZATION: Matt Gordon's Perspective
Urban Solace's chef-owner on whether gourmet's gone a little too casual
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013, 11:24AM
Last week we started a debate about the casualization of dining in San Diego. Every new gourmet bistro is trying extremely hard to look like a rock dive. It’s a trend across America, but it’s hit especially hard here, a beachside tourist town where casual attire and conversation were already the norm.
You can read the first installment here. And then a follow-up Q&A with legendary high-end restaurateur, Bertrand Hug of Mister A’s.
Now we hear from Matt Gordon, chef-owner of Urban Solace, Solace & The Moonlight Lounge and the newly opened Sea & Smoke. His restaurants aren’t formal, but they’re also not the peanuts-and-beer crowd. His clientele seems to fit almost squarely in the middle of this debate.
Has the casualization of restaurants gone too far?
I think the "casualization" is broad spectrum. It's not just restaurants but really a wide reaching trend likely due to the loss of formality that comes with the immediacy of the current digital culture (wow, I don’t know where that came from).
Passing trend, or tectonic shift?
I really do think that it is just a fad, like reclaimed wood (which I have in two restaurants) or not serving ketchup (I do serve ketchup). I think the trend to dress down restaurants was a reaction to an economic crisis paired with the changing world that is easing in formality. Like any trend, it will die and swing the opposite way. Someday trendsters will wear tuxedos, top hats and monocles to enjoy their slow-drip civet cat poo coffee in a "members only" environment. I'll be joining them in that endeavor.
Tell me the future of fine dining, oh prescient one…
I think many places still keep the fine dining spirit alive, just in different ways. And it will come back, even if in more of a casual format (i.e., linen table cloths aren't really socially responsible, as the waste in water and energy are so tremendous). I think the luxury of fine foods and world-class service in an opulent (yet responsible?) environment is on the horizon.
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