French figures: The country’s most famous judge

There's famous and then there's 'first name only' famous - like Jesus, Madonna, Pele . . . and Mercotte.

French figures: The country's most famous judge
Photo: M6

Mercotte, born Jacqueline Mercorelli, had a long career as a food writer and critic, but she became more widely known when in 2012 she became one of the judges on Le Meilleur Pâtissier – France's version of Bake Off.

Eight years later and the 78-year-old is still judging the hugely popular TV show – now halfway through its ninth season on French TV channel M6 – and is so well known that you can say her name to most French people and they will know who you are talking about.

She has also inspired numerous tributes and cake-based representations, complete with her trademark colourful glasses.

Her fellow judge, Michelin-starred chef Cyril Lignac, doesn't seem to have captured the public imagination in  quite the same was as Mercotte's combination of steely judgement and twinkly smiles, as well as her occasional fits of giggles at the contestants' unfortunate baking fails.


For keen bakers, she also shares every week the recipe for the technical challenge set for the bakers, such as the 'nipples of Venus' cakes above, so you can try your hand at them.

READ ALSO Five reasons why French Bake Off is better than the British version

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France. 

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French figures: The true spirit of France

This is the incredible story about the teenage girl who became a symbol of France for the ages.

French figures: The true spirit of France
Illustration photo: AFP

The story of Joan of Arc – Jeanne d'Arc in French – begun like many fairytales do: an unlikely hero is chosen to accomplish a dangerous task.

Born around 1412, Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl convinced that divine powers had decided she would fight the English army in France. 

She then did exactly that. 

This was during the so-called Hundred Years’ War, when English troops battled for territory across the country that is now France.

Joan of Arc liberated Orléans city from English forces in a legendary and decisive battle that paved the way for the later French victory in 1453.

Joan of Arc paid for her heroism with her life. She was captured and sold her to the English army, who burned her at the stake in Rouen, northeast France, around 1431. She was approximately 19 years old at the time.

But her short life left a lasting mark on France and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Almost 600 years after her death she is still commemorated and celebrated in France and her spirit is invoked during difficult times for the country.

Known today as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc's silhouette is all over the city, ingrained on medallions on the street, cast into sculptures and painted on the boxes of Cotignac, an Orléans culinary speciality.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why you should visit the French city Orléans

This article is the final instalment of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – featuring every day a person or thing that has a special place in French culture. To see the whole calendar, click here.