A rich, lively book about the upheaval in French gastronomy, set against the backdrop of France’s diminishing fortunes as a nation.
France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine. Twenty-five years ago it was hard to have a bad meal in France; now, in some cities and towns, it is a challenge to find a good one. For the first time in the annals of modern cooking, the most influential chefs and the most talked-about restaurants in the world are not French. Within France, large segments of the wine industry are in crisis, cherished artisanal cheeses are threatened with extinction, and bistros and brasseries are disappearing at an alarming rate. But business is brisk at some establishments: Astonishingly, France has become the second-most-profitable market in the world for McDonald’s.
How did this happen? To find out, Michael Steinberger takes an enviable trip through the traditional pleasures of France. He talks to top chefs—Alain Ducasse, Paul Gagnaire, Paul Bocuse—winemakers, farmers, bakers, and other artisans. He visits the Élysée Palace, interviews the head of McDonald’s Europe, marches down a Paris boulevard with José Bové, and breaks bread with the editorial director of the powerful and secretive Michelin Guide. He spends hours with some of France’s brightest young chefs and winemakers, who are battling to reinvigorate the country’s rich culinary heritage. The result is a sharp and funny book that will give Francophiles everywhere an entirely new perspective—political, economic, personal, and cultural—on the crisis in the country and food they love.