Here is Michelin’s list of restaurants in my old stomping grounds of the Vaucluse a department that includes the town of Avignon and other cities of gastronomic interest . Click on the link below to see the PDF with all the listings. It was shocking to see that la Mirande lost its one Star status.
Click this link to get a look at the lay of the French restaurant landscape according to Michelin in 2010.
Every year all of France eagerly awaits the release of the Michelin guide. Some restaurants will have cause for celebration and others will be crying in their café au lait.
This year a small restaurant, L’Auberge du Vieux Puits, in the Corbières not far from Carcassonne gained the coveted 3 Stars. Gilles Goujon’s life is changed and prosperity is guaranteed.
Other temples of French gastronomy were not let off so easily. Owners have to seriously consider the loss of their head chef in their decision process as Hotel de Crillion and Les Crayeres lost chefs Jean Francois Piege along with a star and Didier Elena along with two stars respectively.
Marc Veyrat the floppy black hat wearing foraging Savoyard with an inclination to molecular gastronomy has given up his three stars at l’Auberge de l’Eridan as he focuses on his health after a ski accident (this is pretty old news, but rocks the Michelin world nonetheless).
There are many other additions and losses which are clearly articulated in the pdf link at the top of this page.
Filed under: France, Heavenly grazing grounds | Tagged: Didier Elena, Gilles Goujon, Hotel de Crillion, Jean Francois Piege, l'Auberge de l'Eridan, l'auberge du vieux puits, Les Crayeres, Marc Veyrat, Michelin guide France 2010 | Leave a Comment »
Today we decide to brave the Whole Foods grand tasting tent. Six years ago when I went to this event, I was blown away at how many people were waiting to get into the grand tasting tent and how many people were waiting in line to get signatures from the famous chefs. This food celebrity thing is taking off I thought. Who was famous six years ago: Tyler Florence (who I had barely heard of), Emeril, Rachel Ray, Paula Dean, Ming Tsai and an emerging celebrity Anthony Bourdain.
Six years ago I walked into the grand tasting tent and along with all the other attendees struggled to get food samples from the different local restaurants and taste wines from the different distributors. It was hot and fans were blowing air into the oppressive stagnating environment that I chose to spend a few hours in. I walked out exhausted, a little annoyed and tipsy. I ran into Anthony Bourdain (more…)
Filed under: France, Heavenly grazing grounds, SOBE Wine and Food, Travels | Tagged: Anthony Bourdain, Emeril, Lee Schrager, Lola, Michael Symon, Michelle Bernstein, Ming Tsai, Nobu, Paula Dean, SOBE Wine and Food, Sra. Martinez, Tyler Florence | Leave a Comment »
I just wrote a brief post for my good friend and fellow blogger Julie Mautner. Since Valentine’s day is right around the corner, you must all be thinking chocolate and maybe wine (or Champagne). Go check out the Provence Post and let yourself be transported to a chocolate factory in the middle of the vines of Chateauneuf du Pape whose owner just happens to be my good friend Robert Brunel’s girlfriend Laurence.
Of course in Provence they are also deep into black Truffle season as well.
Fresh omelettes with black Truffles, hand dipped chocolates with marc of Chateauneuf du Pape, 2009 harvest of olive oil, nougat, Domaine de la Janasse and long slow braised dishes is probably what they are digging into about right now. How I miss it all.
Filed under: France, Heavenly grazing grounds, Pulling the wool off, The flock, Travels | Tagged: Black truffles, champagne, Chateauneuf du Pape, chocolate, Chocolaterie Castelain, chocolates, Domaine de la Janasse, galets, Julie Mautner, Laurence Castelain, Long slow braise, marc, nougat, palets des papes, picholines, Provence olive oil, Provence Post, truffle omelettes, Valentine's day | Leave a Comment »
Being at home non stop changes my whole routine, but shouldn’t limit what I can do in the kitchen. My kitchen at home is well equipped and I can still make a lot of nice food without the vast easy availability of food at my former workplace. I will continue to submit entries to the Deep Plate Blog each month. However it will require much more thought and planning than before.
Normally my entries are done pretty quickly after I receive a plate from Bauscher. Due to recent events it took me a little longer to complete my January entry.
Another major benefit of my new status is that my body is not subject to the 2,000 calories of daily food consumption that came with my teaching position. I have a much healthier diet now and I am making purchasing decisions that will feed my family with less meat protein yet leave them satiated. I’ve been thinking a lot about Provence and France lately. As I was thinking about my plate presentation for Deep Plate, I remembered a Soupe au Pistou we cooked once with my friend and co-teacher Michel Depardon. He made his version of Soupe au Pistou and I was completely drawn to the beauty of its simplicity and the complexity of its flavor.
I decided I wanted to make similar soup yet keep all the elements whole. Pistou refers to the garlic, basil and parmesan purée that is put into the soup at the last moment. Pistou is a very close cousin to Pesto. In Michel’s version of Soupe au Pistou we used fresh coco beans. Little white beans that are a lot of work to shuck but add an unmistakable fresh legume flavor to the soup. I chose instead to use dried cannellini beans, which are available in bulk at Whole Foods.
My recipe for Soupe au Pistou:
2 lbs. Dried Cannellini Beans (you could substitute navy beans or great northern)
1 gl. of Chicken stock
2 Tbsp. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 cloves of garlic
For the Pistou:
1 oz of fresh basil
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano)
Soak the cannellini beans in water overnight. If you live at altitude like I do, I recommend pressure cooking them, if you are at sea level you can cook them until tender in the chicken stock.
To pressure cook the beans. Place the beans in the pressure cooker and cover with chicken stock . Cover and put on high heat until the pressure indicator pops. Turn down the temperature and count off twenty minutes. After twenty minutes cool down the pressure cooker by pouring cold water on it. Check the consistency of the beans. If you are happy with them then set them aside. If not continue to cook them under pressure in small time increments until they are done.
While the beans are cooking, cut all the vegetables into a small dice. Add a little olive oil to a pan and cook the onions over low heat until they are translucent. Approximately 10 minutes. Then add the carrots and the garlic. Continue to cook until they are almost tender. Then add the zucchini. Season and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Add the vegetables to the beans and stock. If necessary add more chicken stock to reach the desired consistency.
To make the Pistou: Pick the leaves of fresh basil and blanch them very quickly in boiling water. Then submerge them in ice water. Remove the basil leaves and wring out any water. Mince the garlic very fine and then in a blender add the garlic, basil leaves, grated Parmesan and the extra virgin olive oil. Blend until very smooth.
Heat up the soup and serve in a bowl and top with the Pistou. Enjoy. If you want to make Michel’s version purée the soup and then top with the Pistou.
France Food and Wine Experience is the name of my LLC which has been somewhat dormant during my tenure at Cook Street. It is time to bring it back to life during this transitional phase of my career.
I am multi talented and multi lingual which translates into versatility and creativity when it comes to the services I can provide for you. Here are just a few possibilities:
Culinary Tour Guide: I have 9 1/2 years of experience taking groups of up to 15 people to France for a month at a time. I know the ins and outs of this country and have a vast network of chefs and artisan producers. I am particularly well versed in the region of the Vaucluse around Avignon. I can organize a 1 – 2 week tailor-made excursion for a group around the food, wine and culture of this rich culinary region. I have access to the kitchen at the Chateau de Suze la Rousse in the heart of the Côte du Rhône wine country.
I can also design trip itineraries for you to the same region, if you are looking to discover the Vaucluse on your own but don’t want to waste time trying to find its hidden treasures. I did a trip to Spain this way and I can vouch how much better it is to have people expecting you at different points of culinary interest.
Teacher and Trainer: I have been teaching people how to cook professionally for the past 12 years. It is my life’s path and I enjoy empowering people with the skills necessary to cook with finesse and sound technique. This is a craft I fell in love with at an early age and sharing this skill with others is very gratifying. I can arrange for private or group lessons at your home and customize them to your personal needs.
Home Kitchen Tool Assessment and Recipe Instruction: You have all the gear from Williams and Sonoma but you don’t how to optimize its use or maybe you don’t know the right gear to get in the first place. Let me come to your house and help you get the right stuff and show you how to use it correctly.
Cooking Demonstrations: I have done cooking demonstrations in different venues to different size groups. The last cooking demonstration I did was to a group of Uruguayan potato farmers in Montevideo Uruguay. I am comfortable in front of a crowd and can successfully navigate a demo on foreign soil. I have also done numerous TV segments.
Cooking Stages (apprenticeship) in France: What do all the top chefs in the U.S. have in common? They all spent some time in Europe working under master chefs. There is no substitute for this kind of training. If you are cooking professionally and want to take your cuisine and resume to a whole new level, then let me arrange a stage (apprenticeship) at a Michelin starred restaurant for you. I can handle all the logistics and you can focus on getting an authentic and life changing culinary education that will set you apart from every other U.S. culinary graduate or line chef. I can even give you restaurant specific French Culinary Instruction so you won’t feel like such an outsider when you walk through the doors.
Food Photography and Food Styling: I have just spent the last two years putting together a portfolio of pictures. Though I am no Ansel Adams, I have come a long way. If you need customized food photos taken for your company, I can probably beat the price of any stock photo. I collaborated with Bauscher Plates USA on the launch of their Deep Plate Blog and many of my pictures using their plates are featured on their blog.
Recipe Writing and Development: I have written recipes for Niman Ranch and for my TV segments. I have also written tons of recipes for my professional students during my tenure as an instructor. I can come up with original recipes for your product, test them, photograph them and provide you the whole package.
Until I either find a new place of employment or open my own shop these are some of the services I can provide. Call me at 303-926-8963 or write me at Chef-Floyd@comcast.net if you are interested in discussing any of these services.
Filed under: Bauscher Plates, Favorite Presentations, France, Heavenly grazing grounds, The flock, Travels | Tagged: Avignon, Bauscher Plates, Brik dough, Chateau de Suze la Rousse, Cook Street, Cooking demonstrations, Cote du Rhone, Culinary Instruction, Culinary Tour Guide, Deep Plate Blog, Food Photography, Food Styling, France Food and Wine Experience, French Culinary Instruction, Michelin Starred restaurants, Niman Ranch, Recipe writing and development, Stages in France, USPB, Vaucluse | 2 Comments »
2009 was actually an amazing year for me, even if it was not for the rest of the United States and the rest of the world. It was a year of extreme growth and I entered uncharted territory on numerous occasions. I had a lot of successes and faced many challenges. It was also a year of sacrifice and learning what it was like to seriously focus on living with less. We survived and as they say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I am stronger, more confident and more resolved to learn even more in the tweens and teenage years of the new millennium.
I wanted to take an inventory of my accomplishments this year and to acknowledge my challenges. This is one of the cathartic and obviously narcissistic elements about writing this blog. Indulge me on this trip through memory lane. Hopefully my accomplishments will inspire you to take more positive steps in your own life.
So here it goes:
This blog has reached its 2 year mark. Over that period it has received 19,000 hits. I don’t know what my subscription base is. I am having retrieving that information, but I know there are a lot of you out there. Thanks for following me and pass it along to anyone else you know who might be interested.
I graduated four groups of 180º program students in 2009 at Cook Street:
Sorry about that June class, but I must have forgotten to take a group shot of all of you. Click on this if you want to see all the participants from that class.
By my count 41 students for 2009. This is the lifeblood of any school and the future of the profession. I have been fortunate to have had a hand in building their sensory memory, inspiring and building their repertoire of culinary techniques. Stay in touch guys. Let me know how you are progressing and let me know how I might be able to help you in the future. Chef-Floyd@comcast.net. You are the reason I do what I do.
Early in the year I made a presentation to the Anschutz Medical Center about heart healthy cooking. This gave me the opportunity to be live on Channel 9 for the first time. TV was a real learning experience and I was very green on that first spot. TV goes really fast. If you ever go on. Keep it simple and focus on the sound bite.
Aubrey Cornelius from Sprockets Communications arranged a whole series of other TV segments throughout the year and thanks to her I had a crash course in how to set up for a TV spot and sometimes put together different spots in different studios with only ten minutes in between segments. First I started doing healthy segments with Dr. John (he seems to have disappeared since) and then I was just doing thematic spots to draw attention to Cook Street. I stumbled a little at first and over prepared of course, but after a while I got into the groove. I started to get to know the news and floor staff. TV is definitely a bizarre world and it is interesting to be behind the scenes. Of course you are already heavy on the News cast radar because you are bringing food. Food is a hell of a lot more interesting and tastier than a dog needing shelter. They had one kitchen I had access to on the Deuce, but on Fox 31 I had to bring my own portable burner and I know once I burned the counter top with a hot pan. I did a modern interpretation of a Salade Nicoise and Melissa on the deuce told me she couldn’t eat the rare tuna because she was pregnant (she was just starting to show). On my last spot right before Christmas she was about ready to pop, but she didn’t have a problem along with Tom in devouring my lobster profiteroles. I even got my former student, Patricia Bellaire, now turned T.A. on the air. Click here , here , here or here to see me in action.
At the annual ACF award’s dinner I was surprised when my name was called out along with my co-worker Chef Dale and was handed an award for “outstanding Contribution to Culinary Excellence.” I have never been certified by the American Culinary Federation at any level and the membership to the ACF came with my employment. So I got introduced to the world of the ACF over the last two years. They are trying very hard to be relevant to a new generation of chefs (their membership is dwindling and dying off). Their monthly magazine which I always read cover to cover is filled with every top trend in the industry. They are a helpful tool for networking.
This year was the year I helped Bauscher plates US branch President Jeff Heaney to successfully launch the Deep Plate blog. I originally contacted him after going to the ICC in NYC in the fall of 2008. I wanted to see if he would let me use some of their plates as the backdrop of pictures I was taking for this blog. He started first by sending me a whole series of their plates. He then he sought out my advice on how to start a blog that would feature a different plate exercise each month which chefs from around the country and world could show off their plate presentations. It took off and spread fast. It brought recognition to our school and even featured shots by some of my past students. It is interesting to see what different chefs will come up with for plate presentations for the blog. Unfortunately not all the presentations are stellar. However if you are interested in getting involved it is a pretty neat monthly exercise and you end up with some very cool plates.
Every month (except one) I participated in the monthly Deep Plate Blog exercises and even did a challenge with my former student Thomas of a whole menu presented on Bauscher plates.
- One of the submissions to Deep Plate Blog
Peggy Markel came to visit us at the school and did a presentation on her trips to Tuscany. I have never been on one of her trips but I know as a fellow tour leader she embodies all that a good tour guide should. Passion for travel, food, culture and a strong desire to share with her clients. I wholeheartedly endorse her trips and hope to attend one someday. That day is coming soon I feel.
My wife Lucy and I helped break ground on the garden to table project sponsored by the Growe foundation at our children’s school. My wife aggressively pushed her agenda through the school district and received grants to get this important project ”in” the ground. She and I both feel very strongly about teaching our next generation to appreciate growing, cooking and eating their own food.
Two huge transformative events occurred for me this year. Our sommelier Debbie Gray brought to my attention an opportunity to accompany the US Potato Board to Uruguay. I jumped at the chance. I had to do it. I speak fairly good Spanish and I would be really going out of my comfort zone to accomplish this. The USPB flew me to Montevideo Uruguay in Business class during the height of the swine flu scare.
It was a great experience and nerve-wracking. It’s one thing to speak in your own language to people who understand you and another to speak to a group in your native tongue while it gets simultaneously translated. There is a delay effect. It was also tricky trying to prep my demo in an unknown kitchen during lunch service. I finished the day being one of three and the only foreign visiting chef to do a food demo to a group of a 100 grocers and potato farmers from Uruguay. It was fun and it was great to connect to chefs in a distant part of the globe.
The other transformative experience was the IACP conference which came to Denver this year. I was the Director of the Demo Committee and initially I was wrangled into this by Sylvia Tawse as an assistant to Drew Gillespie, but as fate would have it Drew became pregnant and I had to pick up the ball and run with it. I’m stressed just thinking back on it right now, but I proved that I could overcome the stress and deliver. I couldn’t have done it without all the help of some of my past students and of the students from Johnson & Wales.
I was simultaneously trying to book some events at Cook Street (which I know upset the IACP president as she didn’t want me to provide any competition to the conference). Nonetheless I scheduled Douglas Baldwin to do a presentation on Sous Vide cooking and Ian Kleinman from O’s restaurant to do a class on Molecular Gastronomy which meant that I had access to a huge dewar of Liquid Nitrogen until my boss forced me to return it. I played a little with the LN. It’s fun stuff.
We had also negotiated to host some classes and events at Cook Street for IACP. We put on sit down dinner called “Wild and Rare” where I got to cook alongside John Ash, Andrew Dwyer and Will Poole from Wen Chocolates. Unbelievably I also managed to sneak out a last-minute catering event with the help of another staff member to an off site IACP board of trustees event. I was also blessed with a visit from my former Chef Instructor and owner of l’Academie de Cuisine: Francois Dionot and his wife Patrice.
On the last day of the conference IACP scheduled a group of top pizza and dough specialist to do a pizza extravaganza at Cook Street. I rushed from the conference to catch this special event and noticed that the electricity had gone out in most of the downtown. Peter Reinhart, Cathy Whims and Antonio Laudisio rolled with it and produced some amazing pizza to a packed house. The lights came back on in the last ten minutes. After the event was over I went home and collapsed in my bed. I had survived and it had been a huge success even if they had poor over all turn out due to the economy. I have since been consulted for advice for the conference that will take place in April in Portland Oregon. I hope to attend this time as a guest.
In the summer we hosted, Allison Reynaud, the daughter of a good friend of ours from Avignon. Her mother is the girlfriend of my best friend in France: Robert Brunel and she owns the chocolate factory in Chateau Neuf du Pape: Chocolaterie Bernard Castelain
I put the menus together for the 180º Dining events that occur twice every program. A total of 8 sit down dinners for 50 people (in all fairness not all sold out). I wanted to get my students involved in the production of food to the public and the only opportunity my students had prior to this event was to volunteer for an event which occurred once a month called Taste 5. Taste 5 was buffet featuring 5 different tastes of food with five different paired wines. All the staff had to be available to help coordinate and it put a hell of a burden on the facility the whole week leading to the event. Add to that the student volunteers would sometime decide to un-volunteer and you had the potential for a huge cluster***k. My idea was to supplement our student’s education and to focus on our core education of classic regional French and Italian Cuisine and allow the students to get a feeling of what it was like to cook and serve a sit down dinner of 50 paying customers. It is a hit and now has its own following even without a posted menu.
We were blessed with the presence of members of the Mexican consulate and Chef Roberto Solis from the Yucatan. They wanted to present wines from Mexico and to showcase their chefs. It was a great opportunity for Cook Street students to connect with a chef from our neighbors down south. One of my students is hoping to get down there for a stage in a few months. Roberto Solis has a restaurant Nectar in Yucatan and has worked with Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck in Bray UK, with René Redzepi of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen and Thomas Keller at Per Se in NYC.
His style is avant-garde but with an eye on traditional Yucatan cuisine. Some of his dishes were magical and did what many deconstructed dishes do which is to bring you right back to something instantly recognizable in flavor.
Of course I am a devout reader and try to improve my culinary knowledge daily. One of the few advantage of commuting to Denver each day is that I had 30 minutes each way to focus on reading or grading quizzes. I came to class refreshed, unstressed and more educated than I would be if I had fought with the rest of the commuters that file in one by one into the urban center. I read Salt, Cod, Devil In The Kitchen, The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry, Under Pressure, In Search Of Perfection, Lessons In Excellence, The Food of France and I am half way through the The Food of Italy.
I have become more of an activist in the past year. I have read some pretty disturbing books and seen some moving movies on the subject. Rent and watch Food Inc. and watch the Future of Food on Hulu. Hopefully these movies will make you angry and want to take action. Vote with your wallet at the supermarket, patronize your local farmers market. You can make a difference.
Something needs to be done about changing the Farm Bill. We need to stop the monopolies of companies like Cargill, Monsanto, IBP, Swift among others. Wouldn’t it be nice if a farmer could sue Monsanto for allowing their GMO soybeans or corn from contaminating their crops and adulterating their seeds. Ask your representative about Kevin’s Law. Does he/she support it. The processing plants have too much power to contaminate our food supply with impunity. We need to turn the tables and give the consumer back their rights. We need to find another outlet other than our schools for the meat that goes unchecked by USDA. Anyway there is a lot to be vocal about and with the internet it is a lot easier to do.
My father and I went to CU to talk to a food writing class about our different backgrounds and were pleasantly surprised at the level of involvement these students had in connection with food.
As you can attest it has been a big year for me. I can hardly wait to see what takes place next year. In my next post I will make a big announcement.
Happy New Year may you all be blessed with good food, wine and good friends to share it with in 2010.
Filed under: 180 dining, Bauscher Plates, Cook Street, Favorite Presentations, France, Heavenly grazing grounds, IACP, Pulling the wool off, The flock, Travels | Tagged: 180 dining, ACF, Andoni Aduriz, Andrew Dwyer, Anschutz Medical Center, Antonio Laudisio, Aubrey Cornelius, Bauscher Plates, Cathy Whims, Channel 9 News, Chocolaterie Castelain, Cod, CU, Deep Plate Blog, Douglas Baldwin, Dr. John channel 31 Denver, Fireside Elementary, Food Inc., Fox 31 News, Francois Dionot, Fresh Ideas Group, Future of Food, GMO, Growe Foundation, Heston Blumenthal, IACP Denver Conference, Ian Kleinman, ICC 2008, Jeff Heaney, John Ash, Johnson & Wales Denver, Kevin's Law, l'Academie de Cuisine, Liquid Nitrogen, Lobster Profiteroles, Lucy Floyd, Marco Pierre White, Melissa on the Deuce, Montevideo, Mugartiz, Nectar, Peggy Markel, Peggy Markel's Culinary Adventures, Per Se, Peter Reinhart, Porn, Rene Redzepi, Robert Brunel, Roberto Solis, Salade Nicoise, Salt, Sous Vide, sprockets communications, Swine Flu, Sylvia Tawse, Tom on the Deuce, United States Potato Board, Uruguay, USDA, Waverly Root, WEN chocolates | 2 Comments »
I just finished reading Waverly Root’s “The Food of France” and it was a delightful read on a country whose food I love and respect. I also realized upon reading this book that it is the basis for all the regional French lectures we present at Cook Street. So if any of you are planning to attend Cook Street’s 180° program, this book along with the “Food of Italy,” which I have just started reading, should give you a leg up on those lectures. I was also impressed with how much of the content I already knew. I’m sure I won’t feel the same about the book on Italy.
We have the daughter of a good friend of ours visiting us from France. Her mother is my good friend Robert Brunel’s girlfriend and owns a chocolate factory outside of Chateau Neuf du Pape: Chocolaterie Castelain.
She brought all kinds of chocolate and other delectables from Provence. More importantly she brought us a selection of fine French cheese.
It has been awhile since we have enjoyed unpasteurized French cheese and it is always a special occasion. It of course makes us yearn to return. It was all we could do to restrain my son from digging in to the platter before my parents arrived.
By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 26, 2009
PARIS, June 25 — Ah, France, bastion of the three-hour lunch. First comes the appetizer, followed by the main course, then cheese and dessert, washed down with red wine and, along with an espresso at the finale, maybe a little cognac to enhance digestion back at the office.
Well, yes and no.
While they have not abandoned their love of food, French people increasingly are resorting to a humble sandwich for the noon meal. Some even gulp it down with a soft drink while sitting at their desks. So much so that the consumption of sandwiches in France has grown by more than a quarter over the past six years, to 1.8 billion annually, and climbed by 10 percent last year, according to market researchers.
Moreover, the change has often come at the expense of neighborhood cafes, where lunch still means a hot dish like grandma used to make and sitting around the table for an hour of conversation with friends or colleagues. The number of bars and cafes in France has fallen from 200,000 half a century ago to 38,600, according to industry associations. More than 2,000 went out of business last year alone as an indoor smoking ban took effect and the world economic crisis bit into budgets.
The shifting lunchtime habits, which are more pronounced in large cities such as Paris, are part of a social tug of war in France between the imperatives of a modern industrial economy and a long-cherished tradition of fine food produced and prepared by artisans devoted to their crafts. The increasingly common sight of a young French office worker walking down the street munching on a sandwich suggests tradition is more and more on the losing side as the years go by.
“If they were home, or near home, maybe they would have a real meal,” explained Jean Rossi, a market researcher at the Gira Food Service consulting company who has investigated the sandwich phenomenon. “But their offices are one hour or more from their homes, and with their limited buying power, the sandwich is an obvious solution.”
For instance, McDonald’s has enjoyed rising business in France for the past five years, taking full advantage of the evolution. Income at its more than 1,100 French outlets rose by 11 percent in 2008 despite the economic crisis, the company reported.
Most French people still prefer to eat a full lunch when they can, following age-old custom in the country and its Latin neighbors, such as Spain and Italy, industry officials said. As a result, sandwich consumption per capita is still lower than in other countries. Britons, for instance, eat several times as many as Frenchmen.
“The function of a meal in France is not just to take on energy, and it never will be,” cautioned Nawfal Trabelsi, vice president for marketing and communications at McDonald’s in France.
But the change, Rossi and others pointed out, is that French people increasingly are willing to forgo their tradition of a sit-down lunch if they face time constraints or are low on funds. The younger they are, the more easily they make the decision, he added.
Yannis Athenes, a 24-year-old computer engineer, is one of the people Rossi was talking about. Athenes handed over about $5 one recent day for a grilled salmon sandwich prepared at a little stand outside the Benjamin Cafe on Rivoli Street, in a busy shopping district just north of the Seine. Athenes said he sits down for a full lunch whenever he can but frequently resorts to sandwiches because of a lack of time.
“The truth is,” he said, holding up his sandwich, “I’m going to eat this while driving. I have appointments set up that I have to get to, and I just don’t have the time to sit down for a real meal.”
Xavier Mazzoni, who operates the stand, said he left his job in a traditional restaurant a little over two years ago to open the sandwich stand, renting the space from the cafe owner. As clients lined up to be served, Mazzoni, 42, said he has to get up at 5 a.m. to make the sandwiches — tuna, chicken, ham, cheese, salmon — but is rewarded with enough business to bring in a good living and finance a planned beach vacation this summer for his two children.
A waiter circulating among the traditional cafe tables only a few feet away acknowledged that Mazzoni’s sandwich stand drains away food business from the Benjamin, which advertises in gold letters painted on the wall that it offers “traditional cuisine.”
“But we have to live with it,” he said.
As he set down a cola for one 20-something woman with swept-back hair, she pulled a sandwich out of her bag and bit into it. Unmoved, the waiter shuffled off to tend to other customers.
The problem is, Mazzoni said, that about five other stands have opened up in the neighborhood since his arrival to try to take advantage of the sandwich boom. Across France, the number of shops and stands selling sandwiches has risen to more than 32,000, doing about $13 billion in business, industry research shows.
But the surge in the new sales pattern may slump a little in 2009; since the beginning of this year, Mazzoni noted, the economic crisis has produced a dip even in sandwich consumption, with some of his previously steady customers reverting to bringing a lunch pail to the office.
Part of the most recent sandwich boom, particularly last year’s steep rise, can be attributed to the crisis, which has carved into food budgets even in a country where many businesses subsidize employee lunches. A sandwich and soft drink in Paris run between $4 and $6, while a sit-down lunch easily hits $18 to $20 even in a simple cafe.
But the increase in sandwich consumption also reflects a long-term generational change in the way French people, particularly the urban young, view their noontime meal. Although older people cling to the idea that a full meal is a necessary part of the day, those under 40 think nothing of grabbing a sandwich if it will save money or time. For an up-and-coming French businessman, lunch may not be for wimps, but it has become expendable.
First-class business travelers on the three-hour train between Paris and Brussels in the 1980s, for instance, used to enjoy long lunches served by waiters in crisp white tunics who, for a price, proposed four courses and poured good wine into crystal glasses. The same trip now takes a little over an hour; travelers have the choice in a bar car between club sandwiches or “wraps” that they can carry back to their seats with plastic cups for airline-style mini-bottles of wine or cans of beer.