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French menus set to get 'homemade' quality mark

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French menus set to get 'homemade' quality mark
Chefs in Paris make hachis parmentier from scratch. A new French plan would force restaurants to label dishes made using fresh produce as 'home made' on menus. Photo: T. Samson/AFP
09:26 CEST+02:00
Never know whether your meal in a French restaurant has been cooked on site with fresh ingredients or just warmed up in a microwave? In a bid to help diners distinguish, France looks set to create a new "homemade" logo for restaurant menus.

France's minister for crafts, trade and tourism Sylvia Pinel, who is due to meet restaurant and hotel-owners in Paris on Monday, will include the ‘homemade’ food tag as an amendment to a bill on consumption when it is scheduled to appear before the National Assembly later in the evening.

“In restoring consumer trust, this label is aimed at supporting quality restaurants,” a representative of the minister told French daily Le Parisien.

According to sources cited by the newspaper, the ‘homemade’ label would be placed next to a dish on the menu which has been cooked on site using fresh ingredients. It is one of ten measures on consumer issues to be included in Monday evening’s debate.

“We have to move towards more transparency by forcing restaurant-owners to show on their menu whether their dishes are made from industrial ingredients or not,” said Socialist deputy Thomas Tévenoud, who wrote the amendment.

Monday’s development is the latest chapter in an ongoing movement to restore French cuisine’s once stellar global reputation.

In May, a French syndicate of restaurant-owners and hoteliers proposed to limit the label of ‘restaurant’ to only those establishments that use fresh produce to make their dishes themselves.

According to the ‘Syndicat national des hoteliers, restaurauteurs, cafetiers et traiteurs’ (National syndicate of hoteliers, restauraunt-owners, café-owners and traders, or Synhorcat), the reform is aimed at improving the information available to French diners.

A recent poll said one out of every two French consumers didn’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 at the time.

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

As well as boosting consumer confidence and transparency, changing the way meals or restaurants are labelled could lead to 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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