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French chef cooks up a storm

Paris, Sept. 5: A stinging critique of French cooking by an American newspaper has prompted a pot-hurling response from one of France’s greatest chefs.

Pierre Gagnaire, a combative, three-Michelin-starred chef in Paris, issued a public statement yesterday attacking an article in The New York Times, which declared France had been surpassed by Spain in terms of culinary excellence and innovation.

The article by Arthur Lubow, one of the paper’s food critics, said French cooking had not changed for 20 years and though good in parts was mostly stuck in time. “French innovation has congealed into complacency,” he wrote, making no great advances since nouvelle cuisine.

“As chefs scan the globe, France is no longer the place they look.” Instead, Spain’s cooks have the work ethic and daring once associated with the French.

Even worse for the French, Marc Veyrat, one of the country’s best chefs, with several Michelin-starred restaurants, agreed. The best cooks, he said, were now in Spain.

Among gastronomes, boredom with France and excitement about Spain has been a growing trend.

But Gagnaire retorted: “It is not enough to just go repeating something for it to become true.”

But he is one of the few French chefs still trying new things. Others have been happy simply to satisfy the conservative tastes of the Michelin inspectors.

“We have got in the habit of harking back always to nouvelle cuisine, but there have been considerable developments in recent years in so many directions, which reveal an unparalleled vigour in French cooking,” he insisted.

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