Dining in Paris: Five tips for dealing with Parisian waiters

Here's how to act like a local in a Paris restaurant, according to the man who wrote the book on the subject.

Dining in Paris: Five tips for dealing with Parisian waiters
All photos: AFP
Entering a busy restaurant in Paris can be an intimidating experience for first-time visitors, or even for those who've lived here for years. 
But there's no need to stress – here are five tips on how to dine like a Parisian, courtesy of Tom Reeves, whose new book tackles exactly that. 
1. Greetings are crucial
Always greet the head waiter with a bonjour at lunch time or bonsoir at dinner time. While you may have heard that French waiters are rude, an enthusiastic bonjour on your part will set the stage for cordiality. This also applies for starting a conversation with anyone, anywhere in France. 
2. Don’t expect the waiter to fawn over you
French waiters leave their customers alone to enjoy their meal. They rarely return every few minutes to ask “Is everything OK?” as American waiters so often do.  
3. Don't feel rushed 
Relax and enjoy the food and conversation.  The waiter won’t rush you from one course to the next. The French enjoy conversation with their meal…lots of it. They generally don’t rush to the next course or rush to get out of the restaurant.  
They also enjoy the presentation of the dishes – the way the food is organized on the plate.  And they enjoy sipping wine with their meal and commenting on the aromas emanating from the glass.  
4. Let the waiter know when you're finished
When you’ve finished your course, leave your knife and fork side by side on your plate. The waiter will pick it up after all of your dining companions have finished their meals as well.
French waiters are trained not to whisk your plate out from under your nose as soon as you set down your fork. They wait until every person at the table has finished the course and only then do they clear the table for the next serving.
5. Don’t leave a tip
… unless the service was truly outstanding. In France, the waiter's service charge is included in the bill and the French don't feel compelled to leave a tip. If your service was outstanding, or if you simply want to reward the waiter with a gesture of your appreciation, a 5 percent tip is appropriate.
Photo: OrnelloPics/Flickr
By Tom Reeves, the co-founder of walking tour guide company Discover Paris! Click here to buy his new book: Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light. 

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Restaurant of legendary chef loses third Michelin star

The restaurant of famed French chef Paul Bocuse, who died almost two years ago, has lost the coveted Michelin three-star rating it had held since 1965, the guide said on Friday.

Restaurant of legendary chef loses third Michelin star
L'Auberge de Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or was 'no longer at the level of three stars', the guide said. Photo:
The retraction of the coveted three-star ranking, coming just three years after Bocuse's death,  has prompted anger and dismay from many of his peers.
The Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near food-obsessed Lyon in southeast France, was the oldest three-starred restaurant in the world, having held the accolade without interruption since 1965.
The Michelin Guide told AFP on Friday that the establishment “remained excellent but no longer at the level of three stars” and will have only two in the 2020 edition of the famous red book — known as the “Bible” of French cuisine.
The Bocuse d'Or organisation, which holds the annual international cooking competition he created, greeted the announcement with “sadness” and expressed its “unwavering support” for the restaurant.
Bocuse's family and his kitchen team said they were “upset” by the decision, and celebrity chef Marc Veyrat, who recently sued the Michelin Guide over a lost third star, described the move as “pathetic”.
“Monsieur Paul”, as Bocuse was known, died aged 91 on January 20, 2018, after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
Dubbed the “pope” of French cuisine, he was one of the country's most celebrated of all time, helping shake up the food world in the 1970s with the lighter fare of the Nouvelle Cuisine revolution, and helping to introduce the notion of a celebrity chef.
Michelin boss Gwendal Poullennec visited Bocuse's restaurant on Thursday to deliver the news, guide spokeswoman Elisabeth Boucher-Anselin told AFP.
Even before Bocuse's death, some critics had commented that the restaurant was no longer quite up to scratch.
But Michelin's decision, a year after stripping Veyrat of his third star just a year after awarding it, immediately stirred controversy.
While food critic Perico Legasse told BFM television the guide had committed an “irreparable” error in a quest for media attention, Veyrat said he had “lost faith” in a new generation of Michelin editors he accused of trying to make a name for themselves by taking down the giants of French cuisine.
“I am sad for the team that took up the torch at Collonges,” tweeted the three-starred chef Georges Blanc.
The restaurant has been modernising its look and its menu, pursuing a philosophy its management team describes as “tradition in motion”.   
“The chefs have reworked the dishes. They have been refining them for more than a year, evolving them while retaining their original DNA and taste,” the restaurant's manager Vincent Le Roux told a regional newspaper recently.
The restaurant is scheduled to reopen on January 24 after three weeks of renovations — three days before the official launch of the latest Michelin Guide.
Bocuse described himself as a devotee of traditional cuisine. “I love butter, cream, wine” he once said, “not peas cut into quarters”.
According to Michelin, restaurants are selected on four criteria: the quality of the products, the expertise of the chef, the originality of the dishes and consistency throughout the meal and across seasons.
But critics say the costs of ensuring such standards have made Michelin stars an untenable proposition as more diners baulk at spending massively on a meal.
A handful of French restaurateurs have in recent years relinquished their prized three-star status because of the stress of being judged by Michelin inspectors.
In 2018, the guide allowed, for the first time, a restaurant to withdraw from its listings after Sebastien Bras, the chef at Le Suquet, said he no longer wished to cook under that type of pressure.
The 2003 suicide of three-star chef Bernard Loiseau was linked, among other reasons, to speculation that his restaurant was about to lose its three stars.