When it comes to food, the French have a lot to be smug about.
Over the years, it’s been described by legendary chef Julia Child as “a serious art form” and by poet Marcel Rouff as “light, refined, learned and noble, harmonious and orderly, clear and logical...in some strange manner, intimately linked to the genius of her greatest men.” It’s also earned a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list back in 2010.
Now, on March 19, the French are inviting the world to experience le grande cuisine first-hand.
“Gout de France”, or a taste of France, is an ambitious move by the French government to reinforce its position in a culinary world at a time when other cuisines are on the rise.
According to Christophe Penot, French ambassador to Malaysia, lots of Malaysians don’t know what French food is all about despite the existence of many good French restaurants in Malaysia.
“Although I’m confident we have one of the best foods around, other cuisines dominate,” he says. Gout de France then is an opportunity for French restaurants across the world, including Malaysia, to flex their culinary muscles.
Inspired by Auguste Escoffier’s Les Dîners d’Épicure (Epicurean Diners) in 1912, in which one menu is served to as many guests as possible worldwide in one day, this event will see over 1,000 restaurants across 150 countries participate in what could be the world’s biggest sit-down dinner yet.
This time however, chefs have the freedom to create their own menus, while adhering to the traditional degustation structure specified by no other than Alain Ducasse.
For the uninitiated, this means dinner will be split into several courses: starting with an amuse bouche, followed by appetisers and a main course, before ending with a selection of cheeses and a chocolate dessert. Chefs are also encouraged to make use of local and seasonal produce wherever possible. Five restaurants in Malaysia will take part in this worldwide celebration. Here is a quick rundown of the chefs and what they’ll be serving for the night.
Chef Pierre-Marie Chaillou, Croisette Cafe
Descended from a well-known baker in France, Chef Chaillou, who is already honouring French culinary traditions at his casual bistro has created a six-course menu made up of “100 per cent French” dishes that are currently served at his restaurant.
His cooking philosophy is best exemplified in the seemingly effortless fare he churns out. Think pork-liver pate, pan-fried scallops with leek, as well as the duck confit Saraladaise, which has earned praises from food bloggers and will be served accompanied with potatoes cooked in duck fat.
Croisette Cafpan-fried scallops with leek Price: RM180
Venue: 28-0-3, Level 3, Cascadium Condominum, Jalan Penaga, Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 016-330 4477
Chef Mickael Cornutrait, La Vie En Rose
Young but ultra-talented Chef Cornutrait steers clear of cliches with a six-course dinner that breathes new life into old French favourites. Using only the best ingredients sourced from all over France, Cornutrait has come up with a newly-revised version of the beef bourguignon – 24-hour braised beef cheek in Marselan wine – as well as foie gras cured and accompanied by poached pears.
Said to be one of the first cheeses ever produced, the Ossau-Iraty cheese rubbed with French espelette chilli pepper – which is served with the cheese platter – is also another highlight.
Venue: 39, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2078 3883
Chef Thierry Le Baut, Maison Francais
One of the more experienced chef on the list, Chef Le Baut brings with him over 35 years of experience, some of which was spent working at a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants in France.
The newcomer from Brittany, who says his home region boasts some of the finest seafood and meat around due to its unique location on the north-west tip of France, shines a spotlight on these ingredients in his menu of eight courses.
Highlights include the foie gras milleufeuille with home smoked sea bass and caramelised green apples, the langoustine ravioli as well as the lamb filet slicked with a confit derived from Provencal figs.
Venue: 5 Changkat Kia Peng, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2144 1474
Maison FrancaisLamb filet, Provencal figs confited and crunchy, polenta with zucchini roll Chef Nathalie Arbefeuille, Nathalie Gourmet Studio
A native of Southwest France and the rose among thorns, Chef Arbefeuille will be paying homage to her roots at her learning-centre-cum-restaurant by offering a seven-course menu that combines French sensibilities with modern techniques.
Expect lobster and green peas guacamole timbale, free range chicken leg stuffed with morel and foie gras, chocolate and orange new-age tart, and many more.
While “passion” will always be Arbefeuille’s main ingredient, most of the produce featured on the day is imported from France, like blue lobsters from Brittany and truffle brie from Meaux.
Venue: Unit A4-1-5 Dutamas Solaris, Jalan Dutamas 1, Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 017-280 6717
Chef Darren Chin, Restaurant DC
Local culinary wunderkind and owner of DC restaurant Darren Chin will be collaborating with Le Cordon Bleu Malaysia to craft a 10-course meal that promises to be a “special gastronomic affair.”
Backed by LCB’s team of chefs and service crew, the Paris-trained Chin, who has wowed gourmands with his flair for creating modern, experimental dishes, will whip up a trio of amuse bouche with 15-month Comte cheese gougers, crispy French snails and fried frog legs; cream foie gras ganache “sandwich”; as well as smoked petuna ocean trout, among others.
These are paired with red and white wines from Burgundy and a specially aged Armagnac brandy for maximum pleasure.
Venue: 44, Persiaran Zaaba, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-223 2991