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Food Critic & Creative | France
Meet one of the world’s most influential food critics and the president of the French jury of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, who shares his thoughts on the current trends influencing the French gastronomy scene.
Described by Time Magazine as “Paris’s Culinary Starmaker” and a “culinary connector who just may be the most powerful man in fine dining”, Andrea Petrini wears many hats as a global food critic, president of the French jury of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and organiser of cutting-edge food events such as Gelinaz! and Cook It Raw. He is a “Food Trotting, Global Writing and Trend Setting” nomad who has a unique talent for discovering the next up-and-coming chefs in far-flung corners of the world. He shares his thoughts on the trends that are currently influencing the French culinary world.
RV: You’ve been travelling around the world, including to some of the most remote places on earth, to meet with the most talented chefs who are currently shaping the international food scene. How have you seen the world of gastronomy evolve over the past few years?
AP: Over the last few years, chefs and the food scene in general have been invading the media. With the exception of the Michelin Guide which used to rule the culinary world, no one really used to speak about chefs or food. Now, the chefs are superstars and everyone wants to give their opinion about them; from bloggers to women’s publications, and even those publications that rarely speak about cuisine. Around 5-6 years ago, there was an anti-conformist revolution emerging in the food world, where several young and very talented chefs were getting rid of the traditional codes of gastronomy cuisine—such as white tablecloths and silver cutlery—in favour of offering short and simplified menus with gastro-cool-affordable dishes, organic wines and a casual dining setting with an open kitchen. In France, the trendsetter was Inaki Aizpitarte from Le Chateaubriand restaurant. Nowadays—and sadly, this has become the new standard around the world—there are thousands of clones, mainly in their 30s with their 4-day-old beards, cooking seasonal ingredients and serving only organic wines. It tends to be a pale copy of what we’ve seen emerging over the last few years. Only a few years ago, we were struggling to explain why the culinary world was so amazing, and it’s funny to see that now it’s evolved into a mass market phenomenon.
RV: Who do you think are some of the most interesting Parisian chefs and restaurants right now?
AP: There are too many chefs to mention, each for different reasons! For me, Iñaki Aizpitarte, Bertrand Grébaut (Septime) and David Toutain (Restaurant David Toutain) are the exceptions to the rule as they infuse talent, creativity and their own souls and interpretation into their cuisine. They’re bringing back sophistication to the culinary world, while the current trend tends to be more about “coolness”. For example, David Toutain’s cuisine is very technical with an elaborate and rich degustation menu presented in an elegant dining space. I would also mention Adeline Grattard at Yam’Tcha who just received her first Michelin star, who is cooking in a tiny kitchen with just a wok. Yannick Alleno left behind his 3 Michelin stars earned at Restaurant Le Meurice to open his new Terroir Parisien bistros. What about the master Alain Passard with his vegetable-based cuisine? One of the rare high-end chefs who focuses 100% of his time on only one restaurant. He has trained some of the world’s most talented chefs of the new generation, such as Bertrand Grébaut. And last but not the least, Alain Ducasse who just took over Restaurant Le Meurice and will soon reopen his restaurant at Hôtel Plaza Athénée with a more modern spirit and touch. The media will be forced to speak again about sophisticated cuisine and go beyond the “cool” and “fashionable” restaurants of the current trend.
RV: What’s the role of Paris and French cuisine in the international food scene?
AP: Of course, France is perceived as an exceptional country, where gastronomy is an integral part of the French culture and education. It was the bedrock for gastronomy and has been a major source of inspiration for chefs around the world. However, the French monopoly is over, since there are many amazing chefs and cuisines everywhere now. For example, 10 years ago, the New York Times was saying that Spain was the “new France”, with Ferran Adria from El Bullii restaurant at its pinnacle. At that time, the French chefs thought that they were the victims of a conspiracy, however, the legendary French chef Alain Ducasse had already pinpointed that France was losing its influence. He understood it more quickly than anyone else, since he is ahead of his time and saw what was happening during his frequent travels around the world.
RV: What are the emerging trends for the next 5-10 years?
AP: For sure, the classicism and the old style French gastronomy will disappear at the same time as when the old colonels retire! Molecular cuisine has shown its limits, the traditional set menus with wine pairings—where you are almost drunk before the main dish—will be obsolete, and the Michelin-starred restaurants will get rid of their tableclothes and focus more upon modern design. One of the other strong evolutions will be the major role that the clients will play; they will want more freedom and to know exactly what they’re eating, especially with all of the strange things currently happening with the environmental changes and impacts. In terms of products, we will eat less meat and fish, with a bigger focus upon vegetables, which were totally forgotten by the chefs over the last 10 years; except in Scandinavian countries where locavorism and foraging are already part of their food culture. Rene Redzepi will be as influential with his Nordic cuisine, more readable and minimalist, as Ferran Adria was with molecular. We should also expect countries from Latin America or the Middle East to emerge onto the international scene, bringing new local ingredients and spices to the kitchens.
Interview: Enrique Nalda
Photography: Alessandra Tinozzi
Interview first published in RedVisitor Magazine: Issue One - Purchase Now
M O R E I N T E R V I E W S . . .