These two words from French—"gourmet" and "gourmand"—sound so alike that you think they must have common roots, but they don't. They both relate to loving food, but one is positive and one is more negative.
Sometimes people confuse the words “gourmet” and “gourmand” because the words sound similar and they both have to do with food. Both a gourmet and a gourmand love food, but they love it differently.
Both words come from French, but surprisingly, even though they sound so much alike, they have different roots.
“Gourmand” comes from a French word that means “glutton,” and a gourmand is, indeed, a glutton of food and drink. For example, you might say,
- Hans saw the buffet as an opportunity to be a gourmand, trying every item available.
“Gourmet” comes straight from the French word “gourmet,” and is a positive word that describes someone who is a connoisseur of food and drink, essentially someone who we might also in a more light way call a foodie. A gourmet savors flavors and might take pride in recognizing subtle differences. For example, you might say,
- Cooking for Pierre makes me nervous; he’s such a gourmet.
“Foodie” is a more recent term that comes from “food,” a word from Old English instead of French. Etymology Online says it first appeared in 1982.
The best way to think about the difference between “gourmand” and “gourmet” was best stated in the 1898 book Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: “A gourmand regards quantity more than quality, [and] a gourmet quality more than quantity.”
Another way to remember that a gourmand likes to eat a lot of food is to think of the Michelin Man—yes, the chubby white icon made out of tires.
The Bib Gourmand Award
You may be familiar with the Michelin Guide which is published by the same company that makes tires. It was originally a guidebook for drivers, but is now best known for its restaurant ratings. It’s a big deal for a restaurant to be able to say it’s a Michelin star restaurant, and starred restaurants tend to be expensive, but Michelin also has an award for lower-cost restaurants, and we’re talking about it because the award is called the Bib Gourmand.
Bib is the name of our chubby friend, the Michelin Man, short for Bibendum, and the Bib Gourmand is an award for a restaurant that has good food but is also a “very good value for [your] money.” For our purposes, you can think of it as a place where you can afford to eat a large amount of good food. A place that would make a gourmand like Bib happy.
To sum up, take your favorite gourmand to a delicious buffet and your favorite gourmet to the best French restaurant you can find.
- I don’t think we have enough food; you know Geoff is a [gourmet/gourmand].
- It’s our anniversary, so Jules and I are going out for a [gourmet/gourmand] dinner.
- Marguerite uses only clarified butter; she considers herself a [gourmet/gourmand].
Answers are on the next page.