Tourism/Operation Goût de France/Good France
Paris, January 21, 2015
THE MINISTER – Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m delighted to welcome you to a press briefing that isn’t exactly the same as the ones traditionally held at the Foreign Ministry. Our meeting would, I believe, have the approval of two illustrious patrons: Brillat-Savarin, who said, “The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they are fed”, and the most famous chef of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Auguste Escoffier, who said, “The art of cuisine is perhaps one of the most useful forms of diplomacy.”
GOUT DE FRANCE/GOOD FRANCE
A few months ago, our friends here – particularly Alain Ducasse but also Guy Savoy and all the chefs who are here – spoke to me about a project that struck me as tremendous. It involves organizing a French-style meal all over the world on the same day, 19 March. At the time it was a mere idea, but now it’s a reality thanks to the talent of the people here.
Indeed, on 19 March, on every continent, there will be a French meal – Alain Ducasse will give you the details – which will provide an illustration of our gastronomy. You’ll no doubt give the figures, Alain, but not only have more than 1,000 restaurants been selected, I’ve also taken the decision that ambassadors at 150 embassies will organize a French-style meal and invite a number of guests.
On the same evening, at the Château de Versailles, we’ll be inviting all the foreign ambassadors in Paris, plus a number of personalities, to tell them simply and very modestly that French gastronomy is part of our identity, that it’s one of the best and perhaps the best in the world, that we’re proud of it and that it projects a positive image of France.
Alain Ducasse will tell you how the restaurants were selected, and I want to say I’m extremely happy about this initiative. My sincere thanks to the chefs – not only those on the jury but the French and foreign chefs all over the world, who will be such tremendous ambassadors for French gastronomy.
When you look at what makes up France’s image and what’s best about our country, gastronomy and oenology rank at the very top. People will say it’s surprising that this event is taking place at the Foreign Ministry. Not at all, because I deal with our country’s influence abroad, and not to include French gastronomy as a matter of the greatest importance would be to utterly fail to grasp what our influence means. In the past, very great chefs have contributed to the greatness of French gastronomy, and today the ones here are contributing to it, and I want to thank you very much. (…)
Furthermore, very soon, in the coming days, we’re going to launch a global campaign on the theme “Creative France”. I think gastronomy is part of that creativity, just like our talent in the fields of cinema, literature, technology and the economy. This French gastronomy really has to be acclaimed and tasted; that’s what we’re preparing. (…)
Q. – (…) At my press agency, we’ve often followed “the French touch” and the exporting of France’s value [as a brand]. We haven’t yet heard anything about gourmet chefs; is that in order not to compete, or is it accidental?
THE MINISTER – You’ve heard about French gastronomy, though – perhaps not officially, but ultimately, when the official and the spontaneous meet it’s a very good thing. Yes, of course French gastronomy is part of the “French touch” and I think you must also have in mind the Anglo-Saxon aspect of Creative France. We’ve all said French cuisine is at the root of gastronomy in all its diversity, with a concern for quality – as Alain Ducasse has said –and for the environment and diversity. We’re going to highlight all that, and what will be very interesting is that on the list of restaurants selected there are a lot of French chefs but also a lot of foreign chefs who serve French cuisine.
SELECTION PROCESS/CULINARY EXCELLENCE PROGRAMME
We’ve just taken a measure requested by chefs to facilitate procedures for young foreigners who want to come to France to learn about French cuisine. They will then be our best ambassadors, not only for cuisine, not only for wine, but for the French lifestyle and for France itself.
Q. – What were the criteria for selecting the restaurants around the world which are finalists? And can you give us some details of what you’ve just explained? What arrangements will there be for those young people who want to learn to cook in France?
ALAIN DUCASSE – We have an international committee of colleagues who validated the applications. I must say that the bulk of those who applied were genuinely interested in being ambassadors for French cuisine, because they always have been, whatever category they’re in. We had very few negative comments about the candidates. The whole network is very mutually supportive. All over the planet, as Guy Savoy can confirm, we in the profession will always find colleagues determined to help us. It’s pretty much a global network. Every colleague in the world I asked, to see whether they backed us in helping identify this global network, answered “yes”.
The idea then was to make it easier for young foreigners wanting to learn about French cuisine in France to gain access to it, and here I must say that the countries of southern Europe – particularly Spain – and the Nordic countries have been providing access for a few years, with a lot of opportunities for young foreigners to go and learn about cuisine. It was much less easy in France. So I persuaded Laurent Fabius to help us facilitate those applications, with a covering letter and a fast-tracked job offer – and the Interior Minister supported us –, and I must admit that after a few months we’re now in a position to invite them to France, and they’ll also be paid. I stress this, because we’ll definitely be one of the few countries to pay our interns, because it’s right.
Then, after one year, they’ll become ambassadors for French cuisine. I think we have the modest ambition to restore our influence thanks to this, with young and less young colleagues. They can, for example, be a sous-chef in a large hotel in Asia; they’ll come and soak up our top-class expertise and then spread, share and pass it on in turn. That’s our goal, and that’s all in hand.
THE MINISTER – We’re talking about what have been called culinary excellence visas. Our gourmet chef friends told me and Bernard Cazeneuve that there was a problem, because there was a lot of demand from foreigners who wanted to train in France but the administrative procedures were very complicated. So we’ve taken measures to ensure that, from January this year onwards, long-stay visas are granted for young and less young people who want to train with our great chefs in our starred restaurants. This reflects France’s image, France’s values, and it’s also because we think they’ll later be the best ambassadors. So it was about taking the administrative measures, and they’ve been taken. I think it’s good work.
Q. – Regarding this Goût de France project, is it possible that the project might also revitalize tourism in France and, above all, create infrastructure outside Paris in particular? (…)
THE MINISTER – Operation Goût de France will be carried out on 19 March but, as you’ve sensed, it’s part of a wider project, which is to develop French gastronomy and French tourism; there’s a link between all these.
There’s a huge amount to be done to develop tourism. We’ve already got an extremely powerful tourism industry, because it accounts for nearly two million jobs and we welcome the largest number of foreign tourists in the world. But we want to go further, we want to be even more effective, and that depends on a whole series of decisions that we’re currently taking. (…)
I regularly convene the Tourism Promotion Council, which examines possible ways forward. I also announce to you that there will be a national tourism meeting – the National Tourism Conference – in October, just as there was last year, to take stock of things. (…)
Q. – Let me just mention the main areas:
There’s the world of gastronomy and wine tourism – that is, ensuring that people who come to France for gastronomy or wine can spread out across the country and find hotels that will put them up.
If we want them to come to France, there must be airports to welcome them, and those must have good transport links.
Hotels must also be high-quality, and the necessary investments in hotels must be made. If we want them to get a good welcome, there must be training for young people and less young people. (…)
It’s estimated that a third of tourists who come to France – there are 84 million foreign tourists and I’ve set a target of 100 million people – do so first of all for gastronomy and wine. The figure may be higher, but in the spontaneous answers they provide when there are opinion polls, that’s what they say. So it’s a tremendous asset which we fully intend to develop.
GOUT DE FRANCE/GOOD FRANCE
Q. – Looking at the map, I get the impression that most applications were made on the African continent. Is this right?
THE MINISTER – I don’t have the exact figure but it would appear that 24 restaurants in Africa are registered. We have the following data for other places: European Union (322), Japan (62), Brazil (54), India (49), the United States (46) and China (34). (…)
Q. – How did the project come about? Were you approached by a group of chefs? What road map did the candidates have? I imagine they had to follow a few criteria?
M. DUCASSE – The main criterion is a French-style menu with dishes and wines in harmony with each other. I’d say that today’s chefs must be committed to seeing what they can find locally, that expertise in French cuisine begins with knowledge. (…)
I think we’ve got to get past the debate about who is and isn’t the best. Everyone needs to take responsibility for sharing with the largest number of people – irrespective of religion or skin colour; people need to sit down to a meal. (…)
THE MINISTER – It’s the first [Goût de France/Good France], and “first” suggests that there will be others. (…)
It must also be said that this isn’t the only initiative: the dinner at the Château de Versailles is very important because you’ll have the eyes of the world focused on that event, given that we’ve invited all the world’s ambassadors at post in Paris, along with a number of personalities. The meal will obviously be prepared by great chefs and we’ll be showing off Versailles in all its splendour, thanks to the kindness of Mme Catherine Pégard. There will be other events, because I really want, along with our friends, to restore French cuisine to its rightful place – i.e. as a part of civilization, society and sociability. (…)./.