I moved to Paris to go to cooking school when I was 21 and didn't ship home my copper tarte Tatin pan, charlotte mold and asparagus plates until I was 36. During those years, I wrestled with puff pastry at l'Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. I ate alongside Patricia Wells as she researched The Food Lover's Guide to France. And, eventually, I wrote two cookbooks of my own. I was so immersed in France that it wasn't until I got back to New York that I realized I'd missed a virtual food revolution. I had no idea what chipotle chiles in adobo were and could not figure out why anybody would want to put Chinese roast duck on a pizza. What I did know was an absurd amount about things like raising salt-marsh lambs around Mont-Saint-Michel and where to find the best boeuf à la ficelle in Paris (Cartet). And so when I came to F&W, I became the magazine's resident expert on France and the person everyone went to for advice on where to eat in Paris. Because the city is slow to change, I could safely recommend my old favorites, even though I hadn't visited them recently.
After four years, though, my restaurant list had begun to show signs of aging. One editor returned from Paris to tell me, in the nicest possible way, that her meal at Balzar had been awful; the seemingly immutable Left Bank brasserie had changed since the Flo Group bought it. Then a friend told me that Le Vin des Ruesa wine bar where the foie gras mousse is not an inferior version of foie gras but a deeply delicious thing in itselfhad been sold by its crusty owner, Jean Chanrion.
It was clearly time to go back to Paris so I could update my listand fill it out, too. I wanted to know what young sous-chefs had left Michelin-starred restaurants to open places of their own. I hoped to find a few modern restaurants where I could be surprised, even awed. Perhaps most of all, I was curious to see how haute cuisine had evolved. What would the French do with chipotle chiles in adobo?