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A New Food Must-Read


Au Revoir to All That

© Bloomsbury
Michael Steinberger's Au Revoir to All That

For anyone who cares about food, wine, or France, Slate wine columnist Michael Steinberger's new book, Au Revoir To All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France is required reading. Steinberger has done remarkably thorough research to detail just what has gone wrong in French gastronomy. Drawing on astonishing tidbits like the identity of France's largest private sector employer (McDonald's), Steinberger convincingly explains why so many of its greatest chefs have grown complacent, its greatest gastronomic guide so off-track, and its winemakers just plain broke. In spite of all the bad news, the book is a ripping fun read and is even a little optimistic, as Steinberger points out a few key men and women bucking the trends. I'm posting his list of innovative winemakers over on the Tasting Room blog; after the jump, in honor of Bastille Day, Steinberger lists five chefs he thinks could lead France out of its current rut.

1) Christian Constant
As the godfather of the bistronomie movement, Constant and his followers serve haute dishes at prices normal folks can afford, and in the convivial settings that restaurant-goers now demand. Constant does it at four terrific restaurants in the Seventh Arrondissment: Le Violon d’Ingres, Les Fables de la Fontaine, Les Cocottes de Christian Constant, and Café Constant.

2) Michel Troisgros
His father Pierre and uncle Jean made Maison Troisgros a beacon of the nouvelle cuisine era. Michel has kept Maison Troisgros not only vibrant, but vital: the cooking is as dynamic now as it was back in Pierre and Jean’s heyday—proof that a glorious past need not impede progress, a lesson that others in France would do well to learn.

3) Alain Ducasse
This chef-turned-entrepreneur is a favorite punching bag of food writers, but he puts quality on the table and provides a wonderful platform for the talented young chefs he employs. His longtime lieutenant, Franck Cerutti, who runs the three-star Louis XV in Monaco, is arguably the finest chef in France.

4) Pascal Barbot
Awarded a third Michelin star in 2007, the 37-year-old Barbot is the brightest young talent in France. At his restaurant, Astrance, Barbot is respectful of France’s rich gastronomic heritage but refuses to be handcuffed by it.  His cooking is personal, exuberant and unabashedly contemporary.

5) Pierre Hermé

Not a chef, but France’s foremost pâtissier. From cakes to tarts to macarons (for which he is particularly renowned), his creations are the most delicious edible art on the planet, and exhilarating evidence that the French haven’t entirely lost their touch. His praline millefeuille is a personal favorite. -Michael Steinberger

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