Food & Travel / Words & Photos
That’s the question French food critic Francois Simon posed to a little panel: Nick Lander, Carlo Petrini, Ken Hom, Anissa Helou, Yumiko Inukai and…yours truly. For a recent article in Le Figaro’s magazine, Figaroscope.
Here’s my response in Version Originale…
World capital? That’s loaded question.
Twenty years – even 10 – ago, the question was bandied about for fun but we already knew the answer, but now, just using the places I know well, it’s a legitimate debate. Barcelona combines an unquenchable curiosity and solid base to keep themselves on cuisine’s front edge. Sicily combines incredible raw ingredients with solid value and New York could win on sheer numbers yet it is Paris’ equal in quality and exponentially more diverse. India is a time machine whose cuisine never ages.
Plus, in Paris, coffee is awful and the beer second rate. It’s also pricey. That said, you forget all problems instantly when the former butcher who can hold four bottles of wine in one hand and owns Le Severo puts a côte de boeuf aged 40 days under your nose. You forget it when Pierre Gagnaire boils down a great vat of red wine to make a tiny component of a sauce. You forget it when Laetitia at Le Bistro Paul Bert greets you with a smile, seats you at your favorite table and gifts you with a glass of wine and when it comes to choosing a bottle of wine doesn’t foist something you can’t afford on you. You forget it when three bottles, two glasses of Calvados and one conversation into a meal, you realize with a start that it’s 5 a.m. and you’ve been at the table for nine hours.
Undeniable world champ? Not anymore. However, the French exception still reigns. Let’s call Paris first among equals.
I love the hype surrounding the announcement of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants* – it somehow points out how goofy and subjective it is to rank them (where are Pinotxo and the Agawam Diner?!?!) while reminding us how wonderful they are.
For anyone interested in a trip down memory lane to the places on the list where I’ve been lucky enough to eat, here we go…
noma – Rene Redzepi (see photo)
El Bulli – Ferran Adria
El Celler de Can Roca – Joan Roca
Pierre Gagnaire & Plaza Athenée - Pierre Gagnaire & Alain Ducasse
*Congrats to my pal Lexy Topping for breaking the 50 Best story for the Guardian – woop woop!