France’s tasty diplomacy: dinner by 1,300 chefs worldwide

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French dishes and diplomacy joined forces on Thursday in a worldwide initiative involving 1,300 chefs cooking dinners “a la francaise” to promote France’s fabled cuisine.

The meals were being served up in 150 countries, in French embassies and consulates, as well as hotels, restaurants and cafes, under the slogan “Gout de France/Good France”.

The global operation, sponsored by the French government, aimed to highlight French cooking, an essential pillar of France’s identity that was designated an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2010. It is also a key contributor to its economy and a tourism draw.

The composition of each dinner was left up to the chefs — many of whom were non-French — but had to feature hot and cold first courses, a seafood dish, a meat dish, French cheese, a chocolate dessert and French wines.

In the Cuban capital Havana, diners were treated to warm foie fras on potato confit, in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh there were oysters gratinees with Kampot red peppercorn butter, in Sydney, Australia there were roast Hervey Bay scallops with watercress, and in Istanbul local products such as eggplant caviar and Bosphorus turbot flatfish were offered alongside Henri IV-style boiled chicken.

Prices for the meals ranged from 30 to 380 euros ($30 to $400).

Alain Ducasse, a star French chef taking part, said the operation showed French cuisine was everywhere around the planet and “it can continue to exist and to be influential, contrary to what the Anglo-Saxons (the Americans, British, Australians and English-speaking Canadians) would have you believe”.

He boasted that France was “the only country able to do” such a global culinary initiative.

Thursday’s round-the-globe French munchathon was to culminate with a VIP 650-seat dinner at the Palace of Versailles near Paris prepared by eight top chefs, including Ducasse. Most of the guests were foreign ambassadors posted to the French capital.

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