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Gen Y becomes Gen G – the gourmet generation

For many young people, cooking is the hot new trend – becoming at once theater, entertainment, self-definition, status, and creative expression. Why Millennials wield spatulas and smoked paprika.

By Staff writer / July 9, 2011

Los Angeles

When not studying anthropology in the library stacks, college student Erica Fedderly can usually be found in one other room – her kitchen. She might be putting a pinch of turmeric on a tilapia filet. Or creating something with ingredients from her personal herb garden. Or testing an obscure recipe she found on the Internet.

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Ms. Fedderly is a self-described "foodie." The senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, attended a semester of culinary school in New Jersey before heading west. But her interest in food transcends just learning the technical skills of how to prepare a meal. It has become an all-consuming passion – even a lifestyle.

"I love Mexican spices and French sauces, but I also really like Vietnamese cooking, which is a great combination of French and Asian," she says.

Fedderly wields the wooden cooking spoon (hand-tooled, preferably from a developing nation) of a generation of youth brought up on arugula not iceberg lettuce, paninis not peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, free-range chickens not caged ones. Raised with unprecedented exposure – both real and virtual – to world cuisines and global concerns, this Millennial Generation now coming of age as young adults is redefining what it means to love food. These 20-somethings aren't just passionate about, say, Mexican cuisine or counting bad or good cholesterol. Their foodie lifestyle is one part cooking, one part social conscience. They create meals in a kitchen jammed with friends, from recipes they've spent hours discussing, with ingredients they know the origin of in precise detail. For them, food exploration and preparation has become at once theater, entertainment, self-definition, status, and creative expression.

"This generation has more awareness around food than any generation in history," says Kit Yarrow, an expert on Millennials at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

Many of them are swelling the classrooms of cooking schools around the country. The Boston Center for Adult Education, for instance, runs about 100 cooking-related classes a month. In recent years, the faces "have been getting younger and younger," says Brehon Garcia-Dale, manager of the food and wine program, who notes that most of her instructors are now in their 20s, too.

One reason is the explosion of food shows on TV that have turned chefs into celebrities and made cooking "cool."


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