recently part of a panel on France24 television to debate the
argument over French cuisine.” Rather than being a
debate, though, it was more question-and-answer session once the cameras
were rolling. But beforehand, the four of us on the panel had a very
lively discussion in the lobby about the subject, which at one point, I
stopped and told the producers that this was what should be captured
by the cameras. All four of us agreed on a number of points, but came
from different places, so each had our own ideas of what French
cuisine is today, and where it is going. (And I had a few ideas of where
it shouldn’t be going.)
the studio, I was seated next to Gregory Cohen, a French chef who’s lived
in the United States. He’d brought several éclairs along from his shop, Mon Eclair,
which they conveniently put right in front of me for the taping. It was
hard to concentrate, sitting next to the beautiful creations, while we
continued to chat. But when the cameras stopped, I dove right in.
day after the show aired, one of my best friends in Los Angeles sent me
an email. He’d seen the program and was a good friend of Gregory. I
didn’t ask if he usually watched France24 in L.A., but found that pretty
incredible he knew the personable fellow sitting to my left. But I was
equally interested in Gregory’s new concept of a pastry shop (where you
design your own dessert), as I’ve been thinking a lot about how French
cuisine will involve, and what it will it look like in the future.
are some extraordinary young chefs cooking in Paris today, most of the
food reads to me like “global cuisine,” rather than being uniquely
French. The ingredients may be sourced in France, but the chef may
be Australian, French, Belgian, or American. So what makes a
dish “French cuisine”? We apply that label to traditional foods
from the past, but how do we define what’s assign provenance to a
plate of bulots
(sea whelks) tempura that I had at Pirouette two nights ago? Or
the unforgettable crab salad with green tomato jelly with coral mayo
I had at the Bristol?
They hardly were typical “French” dishes, but made with French
ingredients by French chefs. Still, if I was served them in Seattle or
Tokyo, they would have felt right at home.
last couple of years, many of the trends in Paris took cues from outside
of the country. But éclair is resolutely French and it’s the perfect
palette for invention, and reinvention.
In a place
where it’s usually “Our way or the highway” (“C’est de notre chemin, ou l’autoroute”
doesn’t sound quite right in French), you can have it your way at Mon
Éclair. In fact, that’s the whole concept of the shop
Gregory started with Johanna Le Pape, who was a Championne du monde des art sucrés,
a world-champion in pastry and confectionary.