Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Last year, in my review of Au Revoir to All That, I wrote about how cuisine in France has been changing and the reasons why. Chief among those reasons is the economic malaise that has afflicted France since the 1980s, where the spending power of diners has been relentlessly impaired over almost 30 years. The result? Pressure on chefs to cut costs, to stick to the tried and true, to be risk-averse.

This year’s just released Michelin Red Guide for France, which lists their recommended restaurants and hotels, is yet another harbinger of the changing face of French cuisine. For the first time, the number of “Bib Gourmand” restaurants – offering good value for money for a three-course meal – exceeds the number of “starred” restaurants, 601 to 571 (470 one star, 76 two stars, and 25 three stars).

To qualify, a restaurant must offer three-course meals for less than €35 (CAD 48) in Paris and €29 (CAD 40) outside Paris. Of course, the food must meet Michelin’s exacting standards, which Michelin keeps to itself.

Michelin notes that this is “a sign of the times and an indicator of new culinary trends”, which is a bit of an understatement. But the increased focus on value is good news for les français et les françaises, and tourists as well.

And what does “Bib” in "Bib Gourmand" mean? Bib is short for Bibendum, the name of the Michelin Man.

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