One of the downsides to being on the cutting edge of a new style of dining is some people never get past the name of it. They think it is just another trendy "buzzword" created to draw attention to food or a style they are not going to enjoy. This can all be indirectly blamed on the fabled "California Cuisine" of the 1970's and 80's which featured absurdly small portions of inedible food with unpronounceable names. Because of that, anytime something new come along, whether it is Latin fusion, farm to table or some other legitimate descriptor, people get wary of it.
That is too bad because if most people gave Latin fusion food a try, they would be surprised how much they enjoy it. In a fashion, people have been eating a variety of it for several decades now, although the Tex-Mex they may find in chain restaurants and on the shelves of their grocery store is about as far from what chefs are making in today's hottest restaurants as frozen fish sticks are to fresh seafood.
It may not be the same, or even very close, but one thing the most popular style of "ethnic" cooking shares with Latin fusion is the inclusion of flavors that are similar. Latin fusion gets its name because it brings together the flavors that these chefs remember from the childhood and the meals their parents and grandparents used to make with the more traditional menu items that people are familiar with. Some of the more popular menu items that can be found in these restaurants include grilled chicken with mole sauce and steak topped with a tequila cream sauce.
Another important distinction between a Latin fusion restaurant and their Tex-Mex relative is the insistence on using fresh ingredients. Once again, fresh ingredients were what these chefs grew up tasting, and they want to be as faithful to recreating those flavors as they can. The beauty of this is that each meal can be subtly altered, and while it is a disservice to the kitchen to modify a menu item so much that it fails to resemble what it was originally supposed to be, it gives the chef the opportunity to add a little spice for a customer who requested it or hold out an ingredient someone might be allergic to.
It may sound like a term straight out of a science lab, but fusion cooking represents a fun, fresh approach that chefs are taking in their kitchen, giving people a new way to taste traditional menu items, all in a casual family friendly environment. Do not let the fact that it has a buzzworthy name mislead you: Latin fusion cooking is an experience your taste buds will thank you for.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com