French res­tau­rants are ‘lam­en­ta­ble’

Top French guide La Liste says the stan­dard of French cui­sine is on the slide.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste -

THE stan­dard of French cui­sine is on the slide, the head of the au­thor­i­ta­tive La Liste rank­ing warned re­cently de­spite a Paris restau­rant be­ing de­clared the best in the world for the third year run­ning.

Be­yond the top gas­tro­nomic hot spots, the level of cook­ing was some­times “lam­en­ta­ble” said Philippe Faure, a for­mer French am­bas­sador who also heads the coun­try’s tourism pro­mo­tion coun­cil.

“Thirty or 40 years ago you could cross the coun­try stop­ping ran­domly every 20km and eat very well; there were good bistros ev­ery­where. But that is no longer the case,” he said.

“With­out us­ing a guide you can now eat bet­ter in Switzer­land, Spain and in Italy,” he added, when it used to be “the other way around”.

Faure said that while high-end French gas­tron­omy was thriv­ing – with Guy Savoy’s river­side Paris restau­rant ranked the best in the world along­side French­born Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin in New York – it has “not suc­ceeded in pulling up the rest”.

“There are too few (good) gas­tro­nomic bistros in the big towns and not enough young peo­ple do­ing good things.

“In the prov­inces it’s lam­en­ta­ble, it’s not good,” he de­clared.

Eas­ier to cook Ital­ian

The ex­traor­di­nary ad­mis­sion comes three years af­ter the French-based La Liste was set up as a sci­en­tific coun­ter­weight to the Bri­tish-based 50 Best Res­tau­rants guide which had long been ac­cused of “French bash­ing”.

La Liste’s “guide of guides” ranks the 1,000 best res­tau­rants in the world by ag­gre­gat­ing mil­lions of re­views from guides like the Miche­lin to news­pa­pers and web­sites like Yelp and TripAd­vi­sor.

Faure said that while haute cui­sine is still re­garded as the best in the world, with a re­vival in tra­di­tional French cook­ing in the US, more hum­ble French res­tau­rants were strug­gling abroad.

That was also be­cause French cook­ing was more de­mand­ing and needed greater tech­nique, he ar­gued.

“Fifty to 100 French res­tau­rants were clos­ing every year in Ja­pan (when he was am­bas­sador there in 2011) while 200 Ital­ian ones were open­ing. Ital­ian cook­ing is very easy” in com­par­i­son, he said.

“You can’t go wrong. Pasta, con­serves, sun­dried toma­toes and parme­san cheese keep for years.

“But in a French restau­rant you have to have fresh sal­ads, fresh fish sauces, del­i­cate fine cheeses and that is in­fin­itely more com­pli­cated and costly and it de­mands a lot of knowhow,” he said.

Ja­pan and China top

Faure said nearly half of the tourists who have made France the most vis­ited coun­try in the world come be­cause they want to eat well.

But he warned that this cap­tive mar­ket was in re­volt, cit­ing a Chi­nese blog­ger who had re­galed his six mil­lions fol­low­ers about his “hor­ri­bly bad” meal on Mont Saint Michel, one of the coun­try’s best known land­marks.

Ja­pan and China have more of the world’s best res­tau­rants than any­where else, ac­cord­ing to the rank­ing.

Ja­pan topped the list for the fourth year run­ning with 148 res­tau­rants mak­ing it into the top 1,000 – up 10 on last year – with China fast catch­ing up with 143.

France came third with 116 and the US fourth with 92, although many of those were French, or run – like the New York’s top-ranked Le Bernardin – by French chefs.

Le Bernardin was nar­rowly pipped for the top spot last year af­ter rock­et­ing up the rank­ings. Fi­nally shar­ing the No.1 slot is a tri­umph for its owner Ripert, 53, af­ter a year marked by per­sonal tragedy.

He dis­cov­ered the body of his best friend and fel­low celebrity chef An­thony Bour­dain in a French ho­tel in June af­ter the best­selling writer and pre­sen­ter of CNN’s Parts Un­known killed him­self.

Mel­bourne restau­rant At­tica led half a dozen high-per­form­ing Aus­tralian kitchens, tak­ing joint eighth place.

The best-placed Bri­tish restau­rant was tele­vi­sion chef Gor­don Ram­say’s epony­mous Lon­don es­tab­lish­ment which came joint 16th.

Faure said that the big trends were for more nat­u­ral, or­ganic and eco-friendly food.

But in the In­sta­gram age, how food looked on a smart­phone has never been more im­por­tant.

“There is a grow­ing trend to eat with the eyes,” he said. – AFP Re­laxnews

Filepic of chef Savoy in the din­ing room of his Miche­lin three-starred restau­rant Restau­rant Guy Savoy in the Mon­naie de Paris, in Paris. — AFP

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