For the first time since its creation, the #50BestTalks was held in Paris today, at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac. A unique opportunity for chefs to use their reputation to debate the future of gastronomy, as well as encourage "a positive dialogue for a more inclusive world," said Hélène Pietrini, founder of World's 50 Best Restaurants.
Renowned chefs such as Mauro Colagreco - whose restaurant Mirazur was recently voted World's Best Restaurant -, as well as local chefs like Bertrand Grébaut from Septime (Paris) and Romain Meder from Plaza Athénée (Paris), spent a couple of hours sharing their opinions on the place French cuisine on the world stage as well as the place of women in what is still a very masculine universe.
The future of our planet in a wider spectrum was also questioned by international chefs known for their commitment to the sustainability of gastronomy such as Manoella Buffara of Manu restaurant in Brazil, but also the influential Dan Barber of Blue Hills Farm near New York.
Fine Dining Lovers was present for this exceptional day and summarizes the key points from the various debates below:
Cooking Without Borders by Mauro Colagreco
Mauro Colagreco was the first chef to speak for this Parisian edition of # 50BestTalks. As per the ceremony of the World's 50 Best this June, the chef from Mirazur (Menton) recalled his belief that cuisine is able to surmount any border. "I believe in mixing, brewing and influences. When I think about my life, I always wanted to meet, share and travel, while cooking. Borders are new places to meet. When we go beyond them, the limits no longer exist, " he insisted. "We must go beyond nationalities to think humanity," added the Italo-Argentine, who is convinced that if he had never left Argentina, he probably would not have had the career he has today. "I'm not French but I'm proud to live here and to claim French cuisine that I'm passionate about. I discovered my region and its singularity thanks to the producers and I want to share my knowledge thanks to my cooking, " added the chef, before concluding: "The Earth is my homeland, humanity my family. "
The Place of French Cuisine in the Global Gastronomic Scene
Bertrand Grébaut, Romain Meder, Alain Passard and Yannick Alléno then joined Mauro Colagreco on stage to talk about the current place of French cuisine on the gastronomic scene.
Even if all the chefs claimed to offer French cuisine in their establishments, the latter has "many faces, and today we can shake up the codes," said Bertrand Grébaut. "We play with French traditions, its DNA and its technique, but everything is permeable and we are inspired by the world's cuisines", added Romain Meder. "I think we all broke the codes in our own way, our generation is more transgressive than the previous ones," said Mauro Colagreco.
But faced with the rise of other gastronomies like those from Italy, Norway or even Peru, do the French chefs feel threatened? "To say that one feels in danger is excessive," assured Bertrand Grébaut. "We are not on a throne to proclaim that we are the best, the emergence of other cuisines is a good thing because it pushes us to question ourselves." "France has struggled to move but today young chefs are freer, more expressive, and that's what makes things change," said Yannick Alléno. "There is room for everyone, the important thing is to be constantly evolving", added Alain Passard, followed by Mauro Colagreco: "For me, French cuisine will always be one of the best precisely because it opens itself up to others."
The place of women in the kitchen
If the assembled chefs gladly debated the fact of breaking down geographical boundaries in the kitchen, other borders are still present: those between women and men in the world of gastronomy. Today, few women reach the rank of chef, usually for family reasons, assured Yannick Alléno. "In my restaurants, women's' brigades are mainly around at noon, but at night, women want to go home to take care of their children. It's genetic, women are made to give birth, not men." A statement that was negatively received by the audience, since it's clear that it's women who become pregnant, but they should also have the choice to resume their work quickly, or not. In addition, fathers too can fully assume their role in the education of their children. "Chefs very often say they cook with love, and they too may wish to finish earlier to see their children and cook for them ... with love," said Vérane Frediani, author of the documentary In Search of Women chefs, for whom the problem comes more from restaurants where one remains hesitant to hire women for fears which are not always founded. "My wife - Tatiana Levha - is the head of several restaurants, we have children, and she is perfectly able to combine her personal and professional life," explained Bertrand Grébaut, who hoped that "in the next ten years the young women currently trained in the kitchen will move into chef positions more easily if they wish. "
The Future of our plate
Two chefs very committed to the future of our planet then spoke, starting with Manoella Buffara. The head of Manu restaurant in Brazil who said she has created some local initiatives to get things moving. "For example, I set up beehives around my restaurant to pollinate the surrounding agriculture, and many customers were intrigued, asked us how to do the same thing at home. It is very important to reconnect with our land and we can make things happen with a few small actions. It is our duty as chefs to show that we can cook with everything, even products usually intended to be thrown away ... From here is creativity is born! ", the Brazilian chef inspired. "In the morning, when I leave home, I do not tell my children that I'm going to work but I'm going to change the world (laughs) I know I can not change the world, but if I can start to change my city, it's already a lot."
For his part, Dan Barber recalled the danger represented by subsidiaries such as Monsanto, which controls nearly 60% of our food. "They have created seeds that act as very calibrated software to determine in advance the size of salads and other vegetables so that they fit a standard. Everything is standardized," regretted the US chef. "It worries me because these giants have not only set the taste of our food, but they also define it ... And it's not good at all," neither for the planet nor for our palate. "It's up to us to change our consumption patterns to look at the old seeds, even if it's not the only solution, I firmly believe that we can create new flavours by manipulating old ones, celebrating the taste of the past, "concluded the chef from Blue Hills Farm.