The Fête de la gastronomie: a rallying call for fine food : No° 30, september 2012

Fête de la gastronomie - JPEG The second Fête de la gastronomie, on 22 September, is on a larger scale than its predecessor and will celebrate fine food not only throughout France but abroad as well. From bistros to prestigious restaurants and sandwiches to aperitifs, the festival is a popular event designed to promote the values of tradition and innovation inherent in a theme with universal appeal.

The first Fête de la gastronomie was held last year, with the aim of creating a national event that would bring in the general public, along the same lines as the Fête de la musique music festival. The event proved to be an immediate success and as a result is being run for a second time this year.

“There’s a cultural as well as an economic aspect to it,” explains Sophie Mise, the event’s main organiser.“It involves a wide variety of sectors, including agriculture, fishing, food processing, catering, jobs in the food industry, the art of entertaining, and much more.”It is hardly surprising that the original idea for the day, which brings together both amateurs and professionals, was supported by Sylvia Pinel, the French Ministry of Skilled Trades, Commerce and Tourism.

This year’s theme – Terroirs: creation and tradition, chosen by 45,000 internet users – will provide an opportunity to celebrate the skills and capacity for innovation of French gastronomy. It will be a chance to pay tribute to some often long-established forms of know-how whilst demonstrating the vitality of a sector that is constantly changing, creating and experimenting and which has its own trends, fashions and new techniques. The 2012 Festival is sponsored by leading chef Michel Guérard, who epitomises both tradition (he has had three Michelin stars since 1977!) and vitality: he is currently in the process of setting up a school for healthy cooking.

Michel Guérard has put forward the idea of an amateur recipe competition, the final of which will take place in the Landes area of south-west France. Promoting agricultural produce is essential for areas where agriculture and food-processing are the main sector in the economy, with the Landes region being a prime example. But all regions will be promoting their specialities through tastings, product demonstrations, visits to key sites, special menus and cookery classes in restaurants, plus a soup event organised by the French markets federation, Les Marchés de France, similar to last year’s but on a larger scale. A significant quality increase on the 4,500 events held in 2011 is expected this year. Projects vary in size and some are even intended to extend beyond the day itself.

In Paris, a restaurant-bus will be travelling through the streets of the capital with several leading chefs on board. Towns and cities outside the capital are also staging a huge number of events. Tours is organising an enormous picinic at the “Gloriette” and Cassis will be hosting a wine festival, whilst Marseille and its restaurateurs will be staging the Gourméditerranée event. In Lille, participants will be invited to bring chefs some ingredients of their choice and then everyone will cook together and eat there or at home. Rennes will be hosting a gourmet week whilst Boulogne will be focusing on sustainable fishing and 800 people are expected to take part in a people’s banquet on the square in front of the Popes’ Palace in Avignon. The general public is also invited to organise meals at home, picnics in the parks and tea parties in the street. The Festival will be making its mark in canteens, hospitals and retirement homes. Exhibitions, readings, symposia, art installations and a Facebook page for festival enthusiasts will complete the programme.

The agency Atout France has been tasked with attracting foreign journalists to the event, even though it has in fact already achieved a degree of international resonance: French and Francophile restaurateurs (France is still the country where chefs come to train) have spontaneously organised their own events, such as the Martinique in Montreal project. New York will have a special ‘eating out’ week and a temporary space – which may in time become a permanent one – staffed by chefs and telling the story of gastronomy and the art of French living, is currently under construction. Expatriate French families will be taking part by offering baskets of products, amongst other things. Everyone is responding to the Festival in their own way, both in France and abroad!

The Fête de la gastronomie is designed to be a rallying call for fine food across the board. The starting point is, of course, the food itself, but there is also an emphasis on people and techniques, which includes employment, training, handing down from one generation to the next, identity and promoting the skills of people all the way down the line, from celebrity chefs to more modest occupations. Finally, the day will provide an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of gastronomy, following on from the inclusion of the Gastronomic Meal of the French in the UNESCO list of Intangible Heritage, as Sophie Mise explains: “It is about valuing the sense of smell, touch and other feelings and reflecting on the reasons for spending time at the table in a convivial atmosphere, as an opportunity to take care of ourselves and other people, while enjoying a simple or more elaborate meal.” At the heart of the festival, of course, lie the values of coming together and sharing, without which gastronomy would not enjoy such passionate enthusiasm.

Sylvie Thomas

To submit a project,

take part in the amateur recipe competition

or find out more about the events taking place, visit

www.fete-gastronomie.fr

publie le 17/09/2012

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