Is French cuisine forever changed?

Maryann Tebben, author of Savoir-Faire: A History of Food in France, expands on the notion of a changing consumer, reflecting on how “they hear about it, they’re reading about it, they’re careful about the ecological footprint that they have, and they’re more savvy than their parents or grandparents were about what food does for the environment.”

When I think of French cuisine, plant-based cooking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. I think of meat, of Toulouse sausage, foie gras and calf brains. But, Ducasse points out, the growing emphasis on plant-based dishes didn’t happen overnight; in recent years, vegetable-forward menus have been growing in the nation’s top kitchens. And at Ducasse’s restaurants, this focus goes back even further.

In 1987, he introduced plant-based menu Jardins de Provence to his three-Michelin-starred Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco. Now, “30-40% of clients choose this 100% vegetarian menu,” he explained.

You may also be interested in:
• A simple French dish made from pantry staples
• Anne-Sophie Pic: the chef who rules France
• The Basque cake made with a 280-year-old water mill

Patrick Rambourg, a researcher specialising in French gastronomy and the author of Histoire de la cuisine et de la gastronomie françaises(History of French cuisine and gastronomy),has also been observing the transition to more sustainable cuisine in recent years. He agrees that France is in the midst of its next culinary evolution; and in his view, it wasn’t catalysed by the pandemic. Instead, the movement has been slow and profound, he believes, growing due to an interplay between changing consumer demands and the eagerness of chefs to embrace the challenge of transforming vegetables into the star of a dish. 

“The chefs are aware of a changing consumer that cares about where products come from. There are also people that want to eat high-end cuisine, gastronomy, but don’t want to eat something unhealthy,” he said. “There’s a change in consciousness around cuisine. Kitchens don’t have a choice but to adapt.”

However it has come about, Ducasse is embracing the shift toward sustainable, vegetable-forward cuisine. In September, Naturaliste will transform into Sapid, a more permanent plant-based restaurant centred around conviviality on Rue Paradis in Paris’s 10th arrondissement. It will feature a refectory-setup with communal tables, encouraging the social contact that people lacked during the past year.