French push to celebrate traditional food

Food writers say a French government push to make French food the envy of the world again faces a tough task in Australia, due to globalisation and the Americanisation of local food.

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The Good France campaign, which saw French chefs all over the world prepare special dinners on March 21, aims to celebrate French cuisine and promote French tourism.

Michelin-starred chef Xavier Mathieu was one of more than 1,000 leading chefs dispatched to five different continents as part of the campaign.

Cooking at a black-tie function in Sydney hosted by the French Embassy on March 21, Mr Mathieu said the campaign hoped to promote traditional French food and recipes.

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“The most important thing is to respect the season, and of course, traditional recipes,” he told SBS.

Food has long been a key driver of French cultural influence globally, with one-third of international tourists recently polled, saying it was a key factor in their trip planning.

“[Australians] want a big statement, big spices, a little bit too much sugar… To be honest, it’s an Americanisation of this part of the world.”

But Sydney-based food author Michael Symons said French food has been the victim of its own success and its influence is now diluted.

“Other people have adopted their tricks and have tried to do better,” he said.

“Chefs are sharing their secrets a great deal, so you now have a global high-end style, which you call contemporary here.”

Chef and food author, Gabriel Gate said Australians didn’t “always understand subtle flavours in the same way the French or Chinese do”.

“They want a big statement, big spices, a little bit too much sugar,” he said.

“To be honest, it’s an Americanisation of this part of the world.”

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But the Michelin-starred Mr Mathieu rejected the theory that globalisation has made French food less unique and special.

“On the contrary, globalisation has been a way for French gastronomy to improve, and export French cuisine outside the country,” he said.

The head chef of Bistro Gavroche, a newly opened Sydney restaurant, Frederic Colin, is cautiously optimistic.

“Tradition remains tradition”, he said.

“This restaurant is set up to be a timeless restaurant, not a concept.”