The Definition of Gourmet: Food, People, and Places

A chef putting the final touches on a gourmet meal

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Add the word gourmet to any food or drink and it feels fancier, more upscale, and generally more desirable. But gourmet is less about the food than it is about the person who is the subject of the word. Gourmet (pronounced gor-MAY) is a term for a food connoisseur. Gourmets are also known as foodies.

The Gourmet Treatment

Food isn't just food when it comes to the term gourmet. Gourmet refers to high-end food, a person who appreciates that food, and a restaurant or place where you can buy or prepare that food and drink. Ways to use the term gourmet include:

  • A gourmet is someone who is a connoisseur of good food and drink.
  • Gourmet food is of the highest quality and flavor, and it is prepared with precision and presented in an artful manner.
  • A gourmet restaurant and its chefs prepare and serve the highest quality food with excellent service.
  • A gourmet store stocks and sells high-quality, unique, or hard to find ingredients needed to prepare gourmet dishes.
  • A gourmet kitchen is well-appointed with professional-grade appliances and storage areas for specialty items and equipment.

What Is a Gourmet?

A gourmet doesn't see food as a means to an end. To a gourmet, food is art. These food enthusiasts are into edible luxury. Gourmets enjoy the experience of eating, making, or displaying food. Some even explore the history and the anthropology of the foods they eat. A gourmet takes time and care in preparing food and usually eat food slowly. Gourmets frequent places that offer extra information about a food's origin and where ingredients are of top quality, foods are prepared from scratch, and the dishes are served in a luxurious manner. The person you may have called a gourmet years ago might today be called a "foodie."

What Is Gourmet Food?

Gourmet food refers to food and drink that takes extra care to make or acquire. Gourmet food is often found or made only in certain locations. The ingredients used may be exotic and hard to find in regular grocery stores. They might only be available in limited amounts or rarely exported outside of their place of origin. Some, such as truffles, must be wild harvested and can't be cultivated. They often are unique in flavor or texture.

Gourmet ingredients may blend herbs and spices in an interesting manner or add flavor to foods that are usually not flavored. For example, lemon olive oil spray, black truffle balsamic glaze, and Calvi white wine vinegar are unique takes on otherwise simple ingredients.

You will find gourmet ingredients in a gourmet section of a grocery store or in stand-alone gourmet stores. For example, some grocery stores have typical cheeses in the dairy aisle but have a gourmet cheese section for higher-quality and imported cheeses.

A gourmet store will often stock ingredients of the highest quality from around the world. They often develop special contacts in order to import and sell foods that are not readily available in their area otherwise. You may be able to work with the store to acquire ingredients by request. In addition, such stores often stock equipment needed to prepare gourmet dishes.

What Is a Gourmet Restaurant and Chef?

Gourmet restaurants prepare dishes from the highest quality ingredients with impeccable technique. They can serve food that challenges the palate or offers a twist from a traditional dish. For example, gourmet mac and cheese may use Gruyere, a cheese that is almost exclusively made in France and Switzerland. A beef dish such as crab-stuffed filet mignon with whiskey peppercorn sauce is gourmet because the sauce and stuffing are unique and challenge the taste of filet mignon on its own.

A gourmet chef has a very high level of skill in preparing food and making good use of the finest ingredients. The chef may be talented in creating new dishes and using innovative techniques. Skill in the presentation of food on the plate also defines a gourmet chef.

What Is a Gourmet Kitchen?

A gourmet kitchen will have professional-grade appliances and fixtures, often conveniently arranged for ease of food preparation. For example, it may have a six-burner gas stovetop and dual ovens plus a warming drawer, with a powerful ventilating hood and a pot-filler faucet over the range. The cabinetry can provide convenient storage for appliances, tools, and pantry items. A gourmet kitchen also has enough counter space for food preparation tasks.