French chefs launch elite ‘quality restaurant’ grade

French chefs launch elite 'quality restaurant' grade
A waiter offers a friendly welcome at one of Joel Robuchon's restaurants: Veroyama/Flickr
Worried by the declining standards of France's famed restaurants, top chefs including Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon on Monday launched a new label for establishments that prepare their own food and give diners a proper welcome.

The "quality restaurant" label will be granted to eateries in any price range that meet the standards set by the College Culinaire de France, a 15-member industry group founded by the country's leading chefs.

"Of the 150,000 French restaurants, three quarters of them do only industrial cooking. The others fight to cook using fresh products and those are the ones we are looking to," said Ducasse, who operates restaurants in eight countries, including three-starred eateries at the Plaza Athenee hotel in Paris and the Dorchester in London.

Ducasse told AFP the label would be granted to restaurants that provide information on the origins of their products, prepare their own food and offer a warm welcome.

"These days, the average person has no idea what they are in for when they open the door to a restaurant," Ducasse said, noting that recognized establishments would need to have an in-house chef and not "someone who reheats a frozen bag".

The culinary group will grant the label to restaurants by request if the establishment meets its standards. To maintain the designation, it will need to score a client satisfaction level of at least 75 percent on a website set up for the initiative.

"We want to use our reputations and experience as top chefs to serve the whole profession," Ducasse said, accusing the French government of "doing nothing" to help the restaurant industry despite its significant benefits to tourism and the economy.

"We cannot wait for things to get worse," he said. "We cannot continue to let media in the English-speaking world say 'France is not what it was' in terms of cuisine."

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