Pretentious, moi? French cuisine sheds snooty image

Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:50am EDT
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By Vicky Buffery

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Michelin-starred and other gourmet eateries across France will slash prices for a week in September in a campaign to bring in a less well-heeled clientele and rid "haute cuisine" of its stuffy, pretentious image.

"Tous au Restaurant" or "Everyone to the Restaurant" is the brainchild of Alain Ducasse, the French-born celebrity chef who boasts 19 Michelin stars and exclusive restaurants in New York, Tokyo and Paris.

From September 19 to 25, restaurants such as his one-starred Paris bistrot "Benoit" will offer two gastronomic menus for the price of one, in the hope the familiar "two-for-one" formula will attract more cash-conscious and mainstream clients.

"People are often scared to come in, not just because of the price, but because they don't know what they'll find, because they have a certain image of gastronomy," said Laurent Plantier, head of Alain Ducasse Entreprise, the chef's business empire.

"It's a lot easier to go to your local high-street chain restaurant, because you know you'll get a warm welcome, you're not scared of the menu, and you don't feel ridiculous," he told Reuters.

At Bistrot 7 in Valence in southern France, Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic will offer a stylish but recognizable menu of farm-grown tomatoes and creamed mozzarella, ravioli of lamb confit and mint, and pungent cheeses all for the mouth-watering price of 57 euros ($82) for two, excluding wine.

More intrepid diners can opt for her slightly less pronounceable dish of salmon marinated in Voatsiperifery pepper, or the perplexing "spirit of a finger" dessert with "iced cream of mint."

Also joining Ducasse in the campaign will be Regis Marcon, whose three-starred restaurant "Jacques et Regis Marcon" in the town of Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, south-central France, is planning an elaborate three-course menu for 80 euros a head rather than the usual price of 140-175 euros each.   Continued...

<p>The head chef of the Escargot Montorgeuil prepares a dish with snails eggs in his restaurant in Paris, December 19, 2007. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer</p>