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Tourism/gastronomy/Operation Goût de France-Good France 2016

Published on March 23, 2016
Statements to the press by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)
Paris, March 21, 2016

THE MINISTER – On the one hand, there are the great chefs: Alain Ducasse initiated this; we’re going to see him shortly at the [Restaurant] Le Meurice. I wanted to show here that there are also young chefs taking risks and getting involved. I think this is an absolutely extraordinary adventure. (…)

I think it’s very important to show that there are a huge number of resources in our country and that gastronomic heritage, the development of the regions, in other words culinary expertise but also the quality of produce – not only produce for creating meals but also French wines –, this quality isn’t focused on the past but bears the promise of hope for the future. And if we ensure it’s promoted globally – as we’re doing this evening, with up to 1,715 meals organized by chefs all over the world, great chefs, great restaurants but also bistros and small, high-quality restaurants – it helps a great deal to show that this expertise is part of, and contributes to, France’s attractiveness.

That’s what I wanted to promote and show this evening: that our country’s young people have talent and want to deploy it in France. Of course, when cooks learn their trade and go travelling around the world, they learn new things elsewhere. But the tremendous thing is that this also happens in France, and that France is capable of new initiatives and also capable of inventing new things; this, too, is what gives it its charm, and this charm is about living together and about quality.

Q. – Are you going to continue the “gastro-diplomacy” your predecessor initiated?

THE MINISTER – Yes. I’ve quoted Talleyrand, who said about Napoleon: “Give me a good chef and I’ll give you good treaties.”

But I think it’s also about the quality of the relationship: yesterday evening I had a meeting with my Japanese counterpart, we shared a dinner together – it’s also the quality of the welcome that enables a relationship to be built – and at the end, he said to me: “I’d really like us to be on first-name terms.” I don’t know if the dinner played a part, but it was a powerful moment in which we discussed a lot of things. It was a working dinner, but at the same time it was a pleasant moment. I think that’s important.

Here in Paris, it also sends a message: on 13 November, there were terrible attacks that we no longer even have the words to describe, they were so horrible, and at the same time France doesn’t give in, France doesn’t surrender, especially Paris. So this evening is also a way of saying no, and a way of saying yes to life.

In our network of French embassies, 150 countries are going to take part in this Operation Goût de France/Good France today, very often in ambassadors’ residences but also in the sky, because Air France, the national airline, is going to organize some dinners. There’s even a cruise company, Ponant, which is organizing dinners under the French flag.

It’s not a nationalist idea. On the contrary, it’s an idea of openness to the world, of sharing: we’re sharing the quality of produce, sharing expertise, sharing the quality of French wines, and we want others to share them too. And because we also want our country to be attractive, to welcome new investors, welcome new creatives, welcome tourists, it’s a way of saying to them: come to France, come and appreciate not only the quality of the gastronomy but also a certain art of living; it’s about France’s originality, which is also universal.

It’s something of a message of hope this evening: it’s the beginning of spring, and it’s important that we can also send this message, which is a message of confidence./.

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