Indian eateries join world project for a French style dinner

An idyllic French meal that in popular culture evokes images of romance and good life, can now be savoured in a restaurant in India, which joins other countries to lay out a “French style” dinner tomorrow.

total of 1000 restaurants world over including 48 from various cities across India will simultaneously serve a French menu on March 19 as part of the “Good France” project.

The global event has been initiated by Laurent Fabius France’s Foreign Minister with noted chef Alain Ducasse who is reputed to have built up an empire in haute cusine.

The project aims to reproduce the concept of celebration of French food begun around the year 1912 by Auguste Escoffi, a chef who launched the Epicurean Dinners initiative – the same menu, the same day, in several world cities and aimed at as many diners as possible.

Each chef will offer a “French-style” menu in their restaurant with a traditional French aperitif, a cold starter, a hot starter, fish or shellfish, meat or poultry, a French cheese or cheeseboard, a chocolate dessert, French wines and digestifs, while remaining free to highlight their own culinary traditions and cultures.

In France no meal is complete without cheese and at least one type of wine. The French pride themselves in their ability to lay out multi-course meals a fact recognised by Unesco, which has listed ‘The gastronomic meal of the French’ as a intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

French ambassador to India Francois Richier said, “French restaurants have a high reputation and the cuisine is now in the world heritage list. It is something that is part of everyday life of France and through this festival we want to share that with many more around the world.”

Richier was speaking at a curtain raiser dinner he hosted at his residence late last evening.

The ambassador said India with its 48 participating restaurants was ranked fourth globally after Italy (96), Japan (61) and Brazil (55), and just ahead of the US (46).

The objective of the festival is to carry the message that “French cuisine is a living, diverse cuisine that moves with the times” where chefs are encouraged to blend own culinary culture to that of France, rather than discounting it. It also lays emphasis on choosing fresh, seasonal and local produce.

“Across the world we have had chefs from different origin from the United States to Japan who decided to work in French cuisine and put their own magic and their own talent into it.” Richier said.

Restaurants that are participating in the ‘Good France’ project were selected by a committee of international chefs who ensured the guidelines laid down by Ducasse are followed while preparing a menu representative of French gastronomy. Chef Hemant Oberoi is the Indian in the committee.

Since a typical French meal comprises essentially meat and seafood, the menu has been tweaked for India which has a dominant vegetarian population, ambassador Richier said.

According to Christophe Gillino, Executive Chef at the Leela Palace in Delhi, a typical French dinner comprises a multi course meal (six courses paired with wine).

“It constitutes of an aperitif with an amuse bouche, followed by a cold starter, a warm starter, a fish and then a meat. Vegetarian food is not very popular in France but I am fully prepared to improvise our recipes,” Gillino said.

Aperitif may refer to an alcoholic beverage served before a meal or a snack like the ‘gougere’ or a baked cheese puff. Digestif refers to a an alcoholic beverage served after a meal.

Chefs often employ techniques such as vacuum cook, and double cook (steam and pan fried). “We also use the techniques of slow cooking, emulsion and foam, and will make some unexpected flavour pairings,” Gillino said.

Naina de Bois Juzan, who owns one of the participating restaurants the Delhi-based Le Bistro du Parc said, “French food is perceived to be very serious and intimidating at times because of its finesse in technique and presentation. For the Good France Festival, my team and I have created a menu designed to change this perception.”

The menu at Juzan’s restaurant offers vegetarian options like mushroom risotta with truffle oil and confit tomatoes while the non-vegetarian option comprise pan fried seabass with squid ink dust and mango rougaille.

Eateries from India include, Tres, Cilantro at Trident Gurgaon, Olive Bistro, Threesixty degree at Oberoi, The Grill Room at the Lalit, Rara Avis, West View at ITC Maurya besides The Legacy Grill and Cafe Swiss in Kolkata, Artisan in Maharashtra, Blue Terrain and Cafe Noir in Bengaluru, Botticino, Frangipani in Mumbai among others.