Sunday, August 26, 2012

Diner Theory - Pondering cultural isomorphism and the ur-brooklyn - Melbourne August 2012



Wandering around Melbourne I was impressed at how appealing all the food places looked. It made me wonder if the same cultural signifiers that work to identify a restaurant with great food in New York just by appearances, also worked here. After a week of trying, they seem to.

I've noted before that most fancy restaurants in every city in the world serve the same "contempo" international food: local, organic, grass-fed, sous-vide, molecular foams/gelee/dirts (but not too much), farm to table, pork belly, poached farm egg, mesculun greens, bacon-infused (the ones behind the curve still serve wasabi encrusted tuna and molten chocolate cake).

At Melbourne, I noticed the same cultural isomorphism (my jargon has been infected by the sociologist I have been hanging out with) appeared at the lower end restaurants. (of course food was crazy expensive in Australia so lower-end still meant $20+). But it was all very tres brooklyn.

All these restaurants had hip fonts, the same distressed brick walls, nice graphic design, committment to local and organic, hipster baristas with interesting facial hair and skinny jeans (no retro hats yet though), committment to craft and hand made, over elaborate coffee devices, spare ikea aesthetic, authentic uncompromising ethnic foods.

But makes me wonder where is the ur-brooklyn. The Platonic brooklyn. Where did it all come from and how does it spread so fast. Which reminds of institutional theory from grad school, as well as my surprise when I discovered playground games we played in New Jersey seemed to be known throughout the United States if not the world.

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