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The food is typically prepared with strong attention to presentation. Foods low in saturated fats and high in fresh vegetables and fruits with lean meats and seafood from the California coast often define the style. The term California cuisine arose as a result of culinary movements in the last decades and should not be confused with the traditional foods of California. French cuisine, Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Chinese cuisine, and Japanese cuisine have all influenced Californian fusion cuisine, though this is by no means a complete list of influencing cultures.
One of the first proponents of using fresh, locally available foods was Helen Evans Brown, who became friends with James Beard after publishing Helen Brown's West Coast Cookbook in 1952. She advocated using fruits and spices available in one’s own neighborhood, forgoing poor grocery store substitutes, as well as fresh seafood, caught locally. The book received wide acclaim and became the "template" for what is now thought of as California cuisine. Alice Waters, who opened Chez Panisse restaurant in 1971 in Berkeley, California, has contributed significantly to the concept of California Cuisine. Wolfgang Puck was also an early pioneer of California cuisine; starting with his work at Patrick Terrail’s Ma Maison, and further work with Ed LaDou on California-style pizza at Spago and Asian fusion at Chinois on Main. Daniel Patterson, a more modern proponent of the style, emphasizes vegetables and foraged foods while maintaining the traditional emphasis on local foods and presentation.
- California pizza was popularized by California Pizza Kitchen and Wolfgang Puck and has caught on as a national trend in the United States; pizzas are heavily themed, and generally include a variety of nontraditional pizza ingredients - Thai chicken pizza with peanut sauce in place of tomato sauce and crushed nuts and bean sprouts is one popular variant; so is a gourmet bacon cheeseburger-themed pizza that usually includes fruit-smoked bacon, lettuce, and a small amount of gourmet mayonnaise.
- "The birth of California cuisine is generally traced back to Alice Waters in the 1970s and her restaurant Chez Panisse. Waters introduced the idea of using natural, locally grown fresh ingredients to produce her dishes. California cuisine is... local, based like most traditional regional cooking on available ingredients including abundant seafood. Fresh vegetables, lightly cooked, and fresh fruits, berries, and herbs characterize the cuisine generally, but California cooking is also in fact a fusion of cooking from around the world." Benjamin F. Shearer Culture and Customs of the United States Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 ISBN 0-313-33877-9, 440, page 212
- Parsons, Russ (5 October 2016). "3 Classic (and Vastly Underappreciated) Books That Changed the Way We Cook". Saveur. New York City, New York: Bonnier (185). ISSN 1075-7864. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
- Straus, Karen Cope (June 1997). "Alice Waters: Earth Mother of California Cuisine". Vegetarian Times. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
Because of Waters, we now have lighter, fresher California cuisine based on locally-grown, seasonal food
- "Food Fight, Revolution Never Tasted So Good!" A Documentary by Chris Taylor, 2008.
- "America's 10 best steakhouses". Fox News. 19 July 2013.
- "Daniel Patterson and Gabrielle Hamilton: On Food and Writing". Time Out New York. Time Out. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Schwartz, Charlie (15 October 2013). "6 Lessons From The Pioneer Of Modern California Cuisine". Huffington Post. Huffington Post. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- California Fusion wikibook
- Timeline: The Introduction of Asian foods to California at FoodTimeline.org