Let’s call time on the word gourmet

It’s overused and has lost all meaning

Every week, new restaurants and cafes are raise the stakes of incredibly standard dishes by attaching the word ‘gourmet’. And it’s getting ridiculous.

To be semantic, the definition of gourmet food invokes “a class of restaurant, cuisine, meal or ingredient of high quality, of special presentation, or high sophistication.” If this is so then how can the word gourmet and takeaway co-exist in the same sentence? They are positioned at completely opposite ends of the culinary spectrum.

Some restaurants have explicitly labelled themselves “gourmet”: like Gourmet Pizza Company and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The idea is, presumably, to trick us into thinking they’re delicious and high end. But can street food be gourmet? Can burgers and pizzas really be gourmet? And can we really be that stupid?


Every single menu has the word on it

Obviously, we’re not. We see supermarket shelves packed full of these wannabe products – like “ready to eat” packaged lentils. The fact you can eat them straight out the packet doesn’t exactly scream sophistication or luxury. And labelling them gourmet doesn’t make you feel any more optimistic about sprinkling them over a sparse homemade salad because at the end of the day it came out a sweaty packet that some poor shop assistant spend hours stacking. 

Arguably, any food trend has gone too far when the cat food brands are onto it. Is something that’s eaten cold, straight out the tin by an animal ‘gourmet’? Personally, I don’t think cats really care if their processed, jellied meat has been steamed or cooked. 


What justifies a salad as gourmet?

Where do we draw the line and what could possibly come next – gourmet microwave meals or gourmet kebabs from your local chippy? The very essence of up-market food as we know it has been turned on its head by clever marketing. Plus, do we really care? Wouldn’t we rather food were honest than trussed up, pretending to be something that’s lost all meaning?

Let’s call time on the overused word and go back to Sainsbury’s Basics.