The June 1st issue of Newsweek magazine includes an article about the current trend that has restaurants labelling menu items with the neologism "housemade" instead of the well-known adjective "homemade."
In regards to the word homemade, Chef Brian Bistong from Braeburn is quoted as saying, "The word has lost its meaning, it sounds either amateurish (Aunt Edna's homemade pie) or hokey (Chevy's homemade ranch dressing). Housemade has more cache."
The article also states that many chefs "insist that the shift from homemade to housemade is a mere linguistic correction; one dines 'on the house' after all."
The Baltimore Sun restaurant critic, Elizabeth Large, posted the following comment from a friend on her blog -
"What's with restaurants calling things 'homemade' anyway? Does someone live at the restaurant? Did the chef make it at home before coming to work?"
Large responds that the reason restaurants do this is that "they want to convey that their food is just like the food that you could lovingly fix for yourself at home, only better."
In regards to the difference between "homemade" and "housemade," Large points out that
"'housemade' isn't any more or less accurate when you think about it; a restaurant isn't a house either."
In my opinion, the difference between the two words is a simple matter of subtle semantic innuendo and status. A Ritz Carlton restaurant is far more likely to have a "housemade" item on their menu than a Big Boy restaurant is, just as a Big Boy restaurant is far more likely to have a "homemade" item on their menu than a Ritz Carlton restaurant is.
By the way - I don't know about you, but I can't stop chuckling at the name of the restaurant critic from the Baltimore Sun.