Even though they may not travel, today's generation known as the "Millennials" have experienced cultures from around the world, thanks to the ubiquitous presence of computers, smart phones and social media. Their world is far more cosmopolitan at a younger age than any generation before them, and one of the results from this international indoctrination is a broader desire when it comes to food and drink. The casual fine dining establishments and family restaurants they grew up going to no longer are enough for them, and they are looking for something more authentic than store front Chinese take-out spots and the pizza place on the corner.
Fusion restaurants are filling this need for them nicely. The authenticity of these restaurants come from the chef, who is usually the owner or part owner as well, and they use the traditional ingredients they grew up with. Typically they begin with the same recipes that their parents and grandparents cooked with, and instead of relying on prepackaged food items and mass produced sauces, they create everything from scratch in the kitchen. This is an important distinction from many of the other casual fine dining restaurants out there because it allows the chef to make changes to the meal precisely to the customer's request.
Of course, these chefs also know that too much of a new thing might be too much for most people, and that is where the "fusion" aspect of the cooking comes in. Simply put, fusion cooking means bringing together particular flavors, spices and ingredients from a specific heritage - think Latin fusion or Asian fusion - with familiar menu items, such as steak, chicken, pasta or seafood. By having a main component that most people recognize and enjoy, they can use it as a vehicle to introduce the authentic flavors of their traditional menu items.
Another aspect of fusion cooking that appeals to the Millennials is the sustainability that many of these kitchens employ. Relying as they do on making everything from scratch, they tend to buy more local and fresh products than most other typical restaurants their size. Millennials tend to be more concerned about what goes into their food and the health risks that are associated with gluten, GMOs and other things. Instead of having to dissect a list of ingredients on the side of a box and determine where everything may have come from, the chef can easily recall everything in a dish and where and when they bought it.
Already establishing themselves as one of the leading economic demographics, it almost seems like Millennials and fusion restaurants were made for each other. Together they are redefining was casual fine dining is in the country, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has written about the food and beverage industry for over 20 years.