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The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  941 ratings  ·  178 reviews
Tastemaker, n. Anyone with the power to make you eat quinoa.

Kale. Spicy sriracha sauce. Honeycrisp apples. Cupcakes. These days, it seems we are constantly discovering a new food that will make us healthier, happier, or even somehow cooler. Chia seeds, after a brief life as a novelty houseplant and I Love the ’80s punchline, are suddenly a superfood. Not long ago
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by PublicAffairs
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Start your review of The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue
I found this an interesting book—in the same ways that Michael Pollan’s food books are endlessly fascinating to me. Sax is also trying to figure out how the world of food works, but he is looking at it from more of the marketing point of view. He still talks to a LOT of influential folks and attends a LOT of events.

Significantly (to me at least), he debunks the whole notion of a “superfood,” a notion which has always bugged me. Who decided that pomegranates are a superfood? Why a pom
My father, the family cook throughout my childhood, is the king of food fads, so I thought this would be fun. It’s an entertaining-ish look at food trends, but lacks the coherent narrative and travelogue verve of, say, Daniella Martin’s Edible.

Sax takes readers on a tour through the cupcake empire (as popularized by Sex and the City – but already fading by the time of publication), DC food trucks, the Latin American food movement (ceviche and quinoa; Peruvian and Argentinian restaurants), the ongo
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In ‘Tastemakers’, Sax examines food trends from all angles. He visits farmer’s markets, the research facility of Dole, and a man who is bringing back the older breeds of rice (while I knew there were a lot of strains of rice that we never see here in the US, I had no idea there were so very many!); talks with celebrity chefs, people who have made chia seeds a health food rather than a Christmas joke present, and people who own food trucks. He tells us that the current cupcake megatrend was start ...more
Doug DesCombaz
I caught the tail end of a KQED show with the author on it, and it sounded plausibly interesting. It's a good book to practice speed reading too. You can avoid digesting much of the fluff, and seek out some interesting details, or insights. I don't usually like to abandon books, but this has become too laborious for my taste (I don't prefer to wait in lines in order to Instagram photos of food, and tell my friends just how much the wait in the long line was justified so maybe it wasn't meant for ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodie industry
Shelves: non-fiction
The Tastemakers by David Saxon was an interesting and humorous read. This insightful book delved into food crazes and their origins, how the agriculture and marketing parts fit in and how they weave together.

Cupcakes dominate the beginning chapter. I never thought of the reason they seemed so popular these days. In some cases, they are a popular choice for weddings instead of a traditional wedding cake. How does that happen? Well, David Saxon will tell you. It’s a craze that started
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really caught my eye with the bacon cupcake on the cover. I didn't know exactly what to expect from it. I brought it home laughingly because my husband has recently expressed a desire to do fondue again, having pleasant memories of the process from back in the 70s (minus the swinging cited in Chapter 11!). Maybe a trip to Florida will be in the works soon (see Ch. 11 for explanation). For sure he would never eat a gourmet cupcake.

At any rate, each section and chapter explor
**I received a review copy of this book from Goodreads giveaways**

Sax asks a lot of good questions in this book, trying to identify the forces and personalities that drive food trends. And in exploring those questions, he gives us a fun romp from the fields of Anson Mills to the convention halls of Chicago's Baconfest. Though some of Sax's forays take on the vicissitudes of nature and the information gleaned by industry number-crunchers, my big takeaway from the book is the overwhelm
Allegra S
Misleading promises.

I got this book because of what I read in the introduction - the author wanted to figure out why some foods become trendy, how that happens, who are the people that make it happen, what is the impact, and what happens to industries when the food is no longer trendy. As someone who works in the food and nutrition industry (on the health side), I was really curious to see his journalistic investigation into these questions. However, instead of a comprehensive narrat
This is a very interesting, fun book about food trends. It's well written and researched. I enjoyed it.
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The Tastemakers (2014) by David Sax is an entertaining look at the wonders of modern food in the United States and Canada.

Food in the West has improved vastly over the past 40 years. Globalisation has given the developed world a plethora of new ingredients and introduced many new cuisines.

Sax starts off by looking at how the cupcakes have been revived and become a global fad. Driven by some New York bakeries making something new the trend was then given a huge boost via Sex and the City and to
Rhiannon Johnson

This book piqued my interest for two reasons:
#1 when I was a retail gift shop manager and had to order items months in advance I always found it interesting that catalogs and vendors were aware of trends before they happened. I put a lot of faith and money into their predictions. Case in point: I had a lot of moustache and bacon products long before I was hearing any buzz about them from my teen daughter or foodie friends. So how do these vendors know what is going to trend before it is ev
Katherine P

The cover of this book was what really grabbed me initially and then I was intrigued my the concept. Sax did not disappoint. This was a detailed look at everything food trend related. He covered cupcakes, artisan cheeses, gourmet burgers, health and diet trends, the people who make the trends happen both on the production and marking level, the effects of social media and what happens when a trend fades. I was especially pleased in the food truck chapter when he very clearly explained b
Wiebke (1book1review)
I just loved this book!
It was very interesting and informative. I like to eat, but I am not the most attentive to trends and where they come from or go. But this book made me think about some trends I had witnessed myself, and participated in, and told me about many more I had never heard of.
This book focuses on North America, so of course not all trends have made it to Germany, others look at a consumer clientele I am not part of. Nevertheless it was fascinating to hear about them.<
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mine, non-fiction, food
This book illuminated how much I unwittingly follow food trends. It begins with a discussion of cupcakes and their rise to fame (check), bacon and how pork belly used to be the cheapest meat, but now they breed pigs with extra-long bellies to keep up with demand, why superfoods rise and fall (goodbye pomegranate, hello chia seeds), legalizing food trucks, cultivating the Red Prince, a new type of apple, and that Indian food has been trying to be the next huge trend since the late 1980s, but hasn ...more
Another pretty book cover. The siren song of the library new book shelves called once more...

Do you have a 'foodie' (that cloying label, it burns) friend who posts endless 'food porn' photos? Do you want to launch them off a balcony after the 34th picture of their salad in one facebook feed? Me too! This firmly establishes me in the 'likes good food but doesn't want to talk about it' category. And even I enjoyed this book.

Food fads like the cupcake, the infernal 'cronut' (both trend
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves food!
Shelves: food-related
If you buy one "Foodie" book this year, make it this one.

Superbly researched and written "Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up With Fondue" by David Sax is one hell of a tasty read. Sax explains in painstaking detail why cupcakes are all the rage, how bacon became trendy, and why chia seeds are up and comers in the food fad marketplace.

This humble blogger is just one very small piece of a huge market powerhouse with fluctuating economics, grand failures, glowing succ
Sep 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty interesting nonfiction book about food trends and crazes. He starts with cupcakes and ends with fondue (a 1970's madness that has since sort of come back in a limited fashion, with The Melting Pot restaurant chain). He attends a bacon convention, presents details about the recent gourmet food truck phenomenon, and laughs at the ridiculous viral nature of the recent "cronut" craze and how fast it erupted. Lots of interesting stuff here and an entertaining read.

I cannot forgive
Craig Werner
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
Fun book tracing the multifarious paths by which previously obscure foods ascend to everydayness (represented by the shelves of grocery stores and menus of restaurants at every level of the culinary food chain). I now understand a lot more about how tastes I'd naively thought were matters of personal preference have been guided to me via a variety of paths: the decisions of chefs, inventive growers, immigrant communities, and, mostly, clever marketers. Learned a ton about the subcultures of spec ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Witty and incisive, with solid research and data points, this is one of the most fun books I've read in a very long time. Sax explores major waves in the world of food, not just accessibly, but also in an entertaining fashion. If you've ever wondered about the obsession with cupcakes or bacon that has swept the world, or been curious about where the hell Chia seeds came from, pick this up. You won't regret it.
May 31, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Long on anecdotes, short on data, and massively overstates the importance of New York in the food world (surprising for a Canadian writer). And that was just the first chapter. This would have been a stretch for even a longform article.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, food
Meh. The first chapter was ok, but not well enough written that I felt like going on.
Some chapters were pretty interesting, like the one on Indian food and the one about trend watchers, but overall it suffered from too many details. Definitely putdownable.
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
at first I wasn't sure how to go about reviewing a book that feels so far outside my usual reading material; what do I know about what makes a good nonfiction book about food trends?
but then it hit me - I know nothing about nonfiction books about food trends. and despite that, Sax pulled me right in and got me interested in something I'd never really thought to be interested in before with his personal, accessible, breezy introduction to the world of tastemaking.
there's another metri
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: phd
Interesting premise, but after reading the entire book I don't feel much wiser about the inner workings of the world of food trends. The chapters and examples are very anecdotal, with lots of (unnecessary) background descriptions and biographies of trend makers. It was fun to read about cupcakes and chia seeds, but I missed a more structural and critical analysis of what (food) trends are and why they are necessary for food companies to develop or reinvent their business models. In addition, I t ...more
Jill Blevins
I can't do this author. I like everything about him, I like his subject matter, I like his exuberant tone. But I can't read more than 10 pages without wanting to check my blood sugar. Too much lightness and not enough depth to make me want to care, I guess. Don't listen to me - I just might not be the right audience?
I found this a shallow but enjoyable exploration of the trendy foods of the last few decades and who the major movers and shakers in those food fields were. Sax doesn't particularly get into the whys of particular trends, so I think there's more depth that could have been there, but it was fun enough.
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book does a great job of explaining food trends using case studies told as engaging narratives in a way that was accessible to non-foodies, or even people like me whose first question about food must be "Am I allergic to it?"
Karen Autrey
I browsed this book and didn't completely finish it because I had other books to read that I wanted to get to, but this was an interesting take on the food industry
Carol Lynn
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read detailing the rise of several food trends, including marketing and economic drivers.
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is perfectly entertaining, but it's a perfect example of a paperback's cover being worse than the hardcover's. Petty yes, but I'm big on judging books by their covers.
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David Sax is a journalist, writer, and keynote speaker specializing in business and culture.

David's latest book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter looks at the resurgence of analog goods and ideas, during a time when we assumed digital would conquer all. It's available in various formats, but especially in paper, and was a Washington Post Bestseller. David's first
“North Americans had two distinct ways of looking at food trends brought from other cultures: foreign and ethnic. Foreign was refined, upmarket, and expensive. Ethnic was exotic, downmarket, and cheap. French and Japanese were foreign. Chinese, Mexican, and Indian were ethnic. With ethnic, “people start to complain if a meal costs more than $10,” 4 likes
“take an edible piece of nature and create a promise out of it, communicate that promise to the public, and then deliver on it with taste.” 0 likes
More quotes…