According to an investigation by the newspaper France Soir, the days when a Gallic chef could boast of 86 different ways to make an omelette are fast disappearing.
Instead they are turning to frozen vegetables, ready-made dishes and sauces delivered in cartons – some of them supplied discreetly by an arm of a British “pub grub” caterer.
Being both an American, an Anglophile as well as preferring Italian food over French, it’d be easy (and understandable) for me to point a finger and go “Ha-ha”. But really, if this article is true, then the only emotion I feel is sadness.
The one thing that you can say about the French is that they are very protective of their culture. What the above article shows is how futile their actions have been on some level.
France is a country where the suicide of a four-star chef made NATIONAL news. The tradition of cuisine is an immense source of pride. You can imagine the outrage that these restaurant techniques are causing.
To add to this insult, the article states “more than a dozen traditional techniques – including how to truss a chicken, open oysters and prepare artichoke hearts have been dropped from the national cookery qualification, the Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnel. Instead trainees are tested on their use and handling of processed, frozen, powdered or pre-prepared foods.”
Let’s be clear here. What these actions are showing is that the restaurant culture in France is moving from primarily focusing on craft to focusing on business. Because what the boil in the bags, and the focus on dealing with processed, frozen, powdered or pre-prepared foods bring to the table is cheaper product. It’s a tacit acknowledgement that money is more important than perfect food.
I hardly think that this sounds the death knell for Haute Cuisine. Any place that uses the mentioned techniques simply won’t be able to compete against those restaurants who use fresh products and better trained chefs, at least when it comes to taste and quality.
But it is a bit of a wake-up call to the culture of cuisine. Where these “boiled bag” places will be able to compete is in profits. To paraphrase a Hollywood cliche, there’s a reason why they call it the restaurant business.
Still, it’s sad when traditions fade away, as we sometimes lose more than we gain. Being an advocate of taste, it’s dissapointing to see less focus on true skill and more focus on providing a cheaper product.