Does authenticity matter?

The concept of global cuisine in America is slippery by nature. Sometimes, a foreign food becomes an “American” staple — pizza, anyone? Other times, international chefs perfectly reconstruct the dishes of their native lands. So what do consumers really want when they ask for a global restaurant?

“In terms of authenticity, if you don't know Ethiopian food, you're going to taste wat: If you like it, you like it. If you don't, you don't; you'll never go back. But you're not going to know how authentic it is until you've eaten at a good number of restaurants,” Kloman says.

Gabe Fore, who has worked as a consultant for Asheville restaurants, says “authentic” is just another buzz word. “We've noticed in the industry time and time again that people don't know what they want. They say authentic, but they don't realize what that means because they're used to the Americanized version of that,” he says.

So, short of going to Ethiopia, how do diners ensure a true Ethiopian culinary experience? “If it's an Ethiopian cooking it, you can pretty much assume it's authentic,” Kloman says. “Now, whether it's good, that's another question. Some of us had moms who were great cooks, and some of us had moms who were terrible cooks. It's all authentic — it's mom's cooking — just some moms aren't great cooks.”

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