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Fine dining French the world’s biggest scoffers of pizza

The latest study on French eating habits suggests the locals have a love affair with foreign foods, well one in particular.

Fine dining French the world's biggest scoffers of pizza
Photo: Ben britten/Zack MiddletonFlickr

France is the undisputed home of gastronomy (whatever the Italians might say) but it appears the natives are far happier dining out on pizzas and burgers.

A new study released has revealed the French have an ever-increasing appetite for foreign fast food – often at the expense of their own Gallic grub like the classic jambon-beurre baguette.

One of the revelations in the report by food consultancy company Gira Conseil was that the French are now the world champions at pizza-eating, with only the Americans matching their appetite for the dish.

The Italians meanwhile languish in tenth place when it comes to pizza consumption.

In fact to put it into numbers the French ate a stomach-churning 819 million pizzas in 2015. That's ten million margaritas more than the 809 million they scoffed in 2014. 

That figure includes frozen pizzas bought in supermarkets and those eaten out at pizzerias, which accounts for 51 percent of all pizzas consumed in France)

“Pizza is a hit in France,” said Bernard Boutboul, director of Gira Conseil, stating the obvious.

But why? Boutboul suggests the reason is because it's might be to do with the fact that a contrast to the sit down, mind your manners, meals French people are used to.

“First of all because it’s a dish which you share, which fits in with our culture based on conviviality,” Boutboul explained, adding that dough or bread-based foods topped with a choice of ingredients “always work very well”.

Another reason is the price. Given that the average price of a pizza is €6.27 it means it constitutes an affordable dinner.

The favourite pizza is the Reine (tomato sauce, ham, cheese and mushrooms); this and the margherita alone account for half of France's pizza consumption, showing that while they may be willing to try foreign food, they aren't prepared to be too adventurous with the ingredients.

But it's not just pizzas the French are scoffing in their millions.

Another shock for those who view France as traditionalists when it comes to food is the country's ever growing “burger mania”.

French people scoffed 1.19 billion burgers in 2015, up 11.21 percent from the previous year. The snack is becoming so popular that it looks set to topple the classic jambon-buerre (ham and butter) sandwich from its pedestal. Sales of this traditional sandwich have declined for the second year running, though they were still sold 1.23 billion times last year.

One problem is that the jambon-buerre is becoming more expensive. Its average price-tag rose by 3.67 percent to €2.84 last year, and is priciest in big cities, reaching €3.40 in Paris. Meanwhile, burgers and pizzas are becoming a more affordable option as the prices for both saw an overall drop last year.

Gira Conseil's Boutboul revealed: “75 percent of French restaurants now have a burger on the menu, and 80 percent of those tell us it has become their biggest seller.”

Fast food chains, particularly American imports Burger King and McDonald's are only partly responsible for the trend representing 34 percent of all the burgers sold in France.

Nevertheless Burger King and McDonald's are hugely popular in France, with Burger King having taken over the 509 branches of French chain Quick, leading Boutboul to call its level of success “unheard of”

And following in the footsteps of “burger mania” is “bagel mania”.

Last winter bagels emerged as France's latest foodie trend, offering yet another alternative to baguettes and croissants.

The times they are a changing.

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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.

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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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