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French ‘restaurants’ set for ready meals ban

Restaurant-owners, hoteliers and politicians in France want to force eateries to use only raw ingredients to make their dishes in-house, it emerged this week. The proposal is part of a movement to restore the stellar global reputation of of French cuisine.

French 'restaurants' set for ready meals ban
Chefs in Paris make hachis parmentier from scratch. A new French plan would restrict the label 'restaurant' to establishments using fresh produce to cook in-house. Photo: T. Samson/AFP

A French syndicate of restaurant-owners and hoteliers are proposing to limit the label of ‘restaurant’ to only those establishments that use fresh produce to make their dishes themselves.

The ‘Syndicat national des hoteliers, restaurauteurs, cafetiers et traiteurs’ (National syndicate of hoteliers, restauraunt-owners, café-owners and traders, or Synhorcat) has support for their proposal from both ends of the political spectrum in France.

Centre-right opposition UMP deputy Daniel Fasquelle, with the backing of 30 of his party colleagues, has tabled a motion in the French National Assembly to bring the ‘fresh and home-made’ restriction into law by June.

Not wanting to be outdone by the opposition Socialist deputy Pascale Got has done the same.

According to Synhorcat, the reform is aimed at improving the information available to French diners, and increasing the level of public confidence in French eating establishments, after a recent poll said one in two French consumers don’t trust restaurants.

“When they walk into a restaurant, customers don’t know whether their meal was just reheated, or lovingly cooked up by a whole kitchen staff,” Synhorcat president Didier Chenet told TF1 television on Wednesday.

“With this [restaurant] label, now they will know,’ he added.

The new restrictions would force all French eating establishments to abandon frozen, pre-cooked and plastic-sealed ‘sous-vide’ ingredients, on pain of losing the right to officially call their establishment a ‘restaurant.’

According to a Synhorcat study published this week, 31 percent of French restaurant-owners admit to using such products and techniques.

Related story: Paris based renowned food writer and blogger David Lebovitz tells The Local what he thinks of French cuisine

As well as boosting consumer confidence and transparency, the architects of the plan foresee a major increase in employment at French restaurants.

“Restaurants that cook on-site, using fresh ingredients, would employ more staff than those who resort to prepared meals,” said Chenet.

“This [plan] could create between 20,000 and 25,000 jobs throughout the whole profession,” he added.

As France’s once world-beating restaurants suffer a decline in clientele, to the benefit of fast-food outlets, this week’s proposal is only the latest in an ongoing movement to give back French cuisine its stellar global reputation.

In April, top chefs including Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon launched a new ‘quality restaurant’ label for establishments that prepare their own food and give diners a proper welcome.

Speaking during the launch of that campaign, world-famous Michelin-starred chef Ducasse declared: "We must not wait for things to get worse. 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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FOOD & DRINK

Five of France’s new Michelin foodie hotspots

As Michelin publishes its 2022 guide, here are five of the most exciting new entries into the hallowed 'bible' of French gastronomy.

Five of France's new Michelin foodie hotspots

Here are five must-visit venues of gastronomic delight for food lovers.

READ ALSO New Michelin guide celebrates ‘resilient’ French cuisine

Plénitude – Paris

It’s only been open seven months, but the Paris restaurant – on the first floor of Cheval Blanc Paris – now has three stars, awarded to chef Arnaud Donckele in Cognac on Tuesday. Picking up three stars all at once is almost unheard of – only Yannick Alléno achieved the same feat in 2015 with the Pavillon Ledoyen in the 8th arrondissement.

Broths, vinaigrettes, creams, veloutés, juices are at the heart of the cuisine at Plénitude. A seasonal six-course Symphony Menu costs €395, while the Sail Away Together menu of three savoury dishes and one sweet is €320.

La Villa Madie – Cassis, Bouches-du-Rhône

Another new three-star venue listed in this year’s guide came as something of a surprise, by all accounts. Dimitri and Marielle Droisneau’s restaurant in the south of France overlooks the Mediterranean.

“We took this house nine years ago. We had a baby, we have a second one now. We live in the villa. We work in a paradise,” chef Dimitri said at the ceremony in Cognac.

The cuisine follows the seasons, and uses carefully selected local produce. As such, the menu changes daily according to what’s available. The Menu Anse de Corton – a starter, a fish course, a meat course, and a sweet treat – costs €130, while the six-course Menu Espasado “Cap Canaille” is €180.

Plaza Athénée – Paris

Top Chef series three winner Jean Imbert was one of a number of former contestants on the show to win a star for his restaurant in the palace le Plaza Athénée – with the jury praising his “impressive revival of the greatest classics of French gastronomy”.

Guillaume Pape – a finalist in series 10, also picked up his first star for  L’Ebrum, in Brest; as did series nine finalist Victor Mercier, for FIEF in the ninth arrondissement, honoured for producing “empowering cuisine, made exclusively using French produce”. Mercier was also named Young Chef of the Year.

The self-titled Menu de Jean at Plaza Athénée costs €296

Villa La Coste – Bouches-du-Rhône

Continuing the Top Chef theme, judge Hélène Darroze – who already runs the three-star Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in London – was awarded a star for her restaurant in the south of France, as was fellow-judge Philippe Etchebest for his latest venture in Bordeaux.

Local vegetables and fruit are the stars of the dining show at Villa La Coste, with meat and fish playing an accompanying role. A three-course lunch menu is €75, while a full dinner menu is €155.

Domaine Riberach: La Coopérative – Bélesta, Ariège 

One of six new restaurants to be awarded a Green Star for its seasonal food and it’s determined approach to ‘sustainable gastronomy’. This year’s six Green Star winners join 81 establishments which received the award last year in France.

“Slow food” is the order of the day, with menus created based – as is often the case – on the seasons, the market and chef Julien Montassié’s instinct. The chief rule is that food must be local – “0 km is our motto”, boasts the website.

The six-course Menu Latitude is €85 without wine. A three-course Menu Km0 is €49 – and a children’s two-course menu is €18.

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