There are a couple of places that foodies dream of visiting, and France surely is one of the top contenders. It has a rich history of being a leader in culinary excellence. For those of us who are inspired by the legacy of Julia Child, learning how to cook French food properly is a lofty goal. We’ve built dreams around the idea of trips to France where we can experience this amazing food first-hand.
Which is why it's so devastating to learn about the downward spiral of French food. Up to 70 percent of French restaurants serve pre-packaged foods now. The idea that McDonald's is popular in France ruins the perception of French food culture. It's disappointing to learn that only 10 percent of French cheeses are currently made using traditional methods (such as starting with raw cheese), and that French consumption of wine has fallen drastically. In fact, Paris is no longer considered by many to be a very exciting food city to visit.
These disappointing discoveries can make food dreams come crashing down. We have plenty of pre-packaged food fed to us at restaurants in America. We don’t need to travel to France to experience the same!
A new hope for French food
But there is a glimmer of hope. A recent New York Times' article explores the revival of French food, and the source of this revival is a surprising one: foreign chefs. Here’s the most interesting part, at least to me: When I first heard that it was foreign chefs leading the way, I assumed they were bringing quality foreign food to France, but many of them are focused on classic French food.
While some French chefs may have given up on reviving their traditions, foreign chefs are interested in bringing them back.
The New York Times reports, “Suddenly, though, Paris is showing signs of renewed vigor, much of it coming from an unexpected source: Young foreign chefs. The city’s most-sought-after tables now are at places like Spring, whose chef, Daniel Rose, is American, and Bones, whose chef, James Henry, is Australian. These are not restaurants serving foreign dishes; they are restaurants serving French fare that happens to be produced by non-French chefs. At the same time, the most talked-about French chef in Paris these days, Gregory Marchand, did much of his training in New York and London and brings a distinctly Anglo-American sensibility to cooking and hospitality. As a group, these chefs are reviving an artisanal spirit that had largely vanished from French food culture, composing menus based entirely on what’s available in the market on a given day and cultivating relationships with individual vendors.”
Food is not static
Is the France that Julia Child experienced available to us? Not really, because cultures (including food cultures) are not static. We adapt, and adapt, and adapt — and our food adapts with us. With more open communication between countries, we share food traditions and mix and match them more. After reading the NY Times article, I have adapted my dream of what it would be like to visit Paris. I can’t expect to visit the Paris of 60 years ago, but I can visit an updated Paris that just may inspire and wow me yet.
Read more about up-and-coming chefs in Paris here.
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