Gourmet (ɡɔrˈmeɪ/) is a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, which is characterised by refined, even elaborate preparations and presentations of aesthetically balanced meals of several contrasting, often quite rich courses. The term and its associated practices are usually used positively to describe people of refined taste and passion.
The term gourmet may refer to a person with refined or discriminating taste who is knowledgeable in the art of food and food preparation. Gourmand carries additional connotations of one who simply enjoys food in great quantities. An epicure is similar to a gourmet, but the word may sometimes carry overtones of excessive refinement.
Gourmet may describe a class of restaurant, cuisine, meal or ingredient of high quality, of special presentation, or high sophistication. In the United States, a 1980s gourmet food movement evolved from a long-term division between elitist (or "gourmet") tastes and a populist aversion to fancy foods. Gourmet is an industry classification for high-quality premium foods in the United States. In the 2000s, there has been an accelerating increase in the American gourmet market, due in part to rising income, globalization of taste, and health and nutrition concerns. Individual food and beverage categories, such as coffee, are often divided between a standard and a "gourmet" sub-market.
Certain events such as wine tastings cater to people who consider themselves gourmets and foodies. Television programs (such as those on the Food Network) and publications such as Gourmet magazine often serve gourmets with food columns and features. Gourmet tourism is a niche industry catering to people who travel to food or wine tastings, restaurants, or food and wine production regions for leisure.
Origin of term
The word gourmet is from the French term for a wine broker or taste-vin employed by a wine dealer. Friand was formerly the reputable name for a connaisseur of delicious things that were not eaten primarily for nourishment: "A good gourmet", wrote the conservative eighteenth-century Dictionnaire de Trévoux, employing this original sense, "must have le goût friand", or a refined palate. The pleasure is also visual: "J'aime un ragoût, et je suis friand", Giacomo Casanova declared, "mais s'il n'a pas bonne mine, il me semble mauvais". In the eighteenth century, gourmet and gourmand carried disreputable connotations of gluttony, which only gourmand has retained. Gourmet was rendered respectable by Monsieur Grimod de la Reynière, whose Almanach des Gourmands, essentially the first restaurant guide, appeared in Paris from 1803 to 1812. Previously, even the liberal Encyclopédie offered a moralising tone in its entry Gourmandise, defined as "refined and uncontrolled love of good food", employing reproving illustrations that contrasted the frugal ancient Spartans and Romans of the Republic with the decadent luxury of Sybaris. The Jesuits' Dictionnaire de Trévoux took the Encyclopédistes to task, reminding its readers that gourmandise was one of the Seven Deadly Sins.