Starting tomorrow, close to 80 restaurants over India will come together to host what the French Ambassador to India, Alexandre Ziegler, calls “the largest French dinner in the world”. In its fifth year now, Gout de France is a week-long gourmet initiative by the French government to expose the world to their gastronomy. This year, their focus is on environmentally-responsible and sustainable cuisine. While world over the festival will begin on March 21, India will get a two-day headstart.
What is the purpose of Gout de France?
In France we’ve thought for decades that [the popularity of] French gastronomy was a given, and that we didn’t need to promote it. But slowly we realised that while gastronomy was known as a part of the French cultural DNA, the image of it was very elitist. It was like a three-star Michelin restaurant, very unaffordable, once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience. When it comes to casual food on a Friday evening with friends and family, you’d think Italian or Chinese or Indian. But definitely not French. So came this idea, that we were going to propose a worldwide event, that would portray French gastronomy as something that is made for the people, that would engage restaurants — and not only three stars, but also smaller bistros, to reach out to the emerging middle-class.
What sort of French dishes adapt to bistronomy?
What I miss when I’m away from France is something like duck confit, or the apple pie by my grandmother, or the wine-chicken that my mother cooked. You find these in bistros and small neighbourhood restaurants. We love this idea that France’s niche is luxury, but that’s actually not our culture. [In France now] there is high gastronomy by young chefs, who use local products, and make dishes more creative and affordable.
How has Gout de France grown?
When we started in 2015, we had 1,000 partner restaurants all over the world. In India, we’ve grown from 65 partner restaurants last year, to almost 80 this year.
Does France have further plans for food-diplomacy?
We want to slowly spread the culture of introducing more French techniques into cooking. The chef that came in for Gout de France during my first year here was Chef Akrame. Since he’s gone back, he’s opened a restaurant that’s popular in Paris. With it he’s now proposing a Spice Routes’ cuisine — Iranian, Central Asian, and Indian. He got the idea in India. He’s very talented when it comes to French gastronomy, but he’s also now in a position to test new ideas. That’s exactly the sort of inspirations we are looking at.
For the list of participating restaurants: Restaurateurs.