Luxurious French cuisine fest reaching out to lower-end diners

By Thuy Linh, Thanh Nien News

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French Ambassador Jean-Noel Poirier (C, with red tie) and nine chefs in Hanoi introduce the Gout de France/Good France feast at a press conference on March 17, 2016. Photo: Thuy Linh
In response to journalists’ feedback last year that the food was too expensive for common Vietnamese customers, this year’s Gout de France/Good France feast will scale down its menu and throw a special dinner party serving Vietnamese students, said the French Ambassador Jean-Noel Poirier at a press conference.
The special dinner will be held this March 21 at the French Embassy in Hanoi alongside other dinners serving quintessential French cuisine  recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage  at 25 prestigious restaurants in Vietnam and over 1,500 restaurants worldwide.
Started in 2015, Good France, an initiative of three-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, invites restaurants and chefs all over the world to submit their own French cuisine menus which are then selected by a committee of 15 international chefs.
The selected menus have to follow some general guidelines of Good France, which Poirier said had been lightened up this year to allow chefs more creative freedom as well as to reduce prices.
This year’s menu framework is: appetizer wine served with a light dish, appetizers, one or more main courses, cheese, desserts, and last but not least, different kinds of French wine and champagne. Appetizers don’t have to be both hot and cold dishes, and main courses don’t have to include both meat and fish.
According to chef Benjamin Rascalou of La Badiane Restaurant, one of 15 participating restaurants in Hanoi, two ways to reduce prices while still maintaining high quality are to reduce the amount of food served, which was too much last year, and to switch to simpler, less expensive dishes and ingredients.
For instance, expensive fatty dishes with foie gras can be served as main courses, instead of as appetizers.
La Badiane’s menu this year, which consists of two servings of appetizers (one cold and one hot), two main courses, one cheese dish, and an ice-cream dessert, costs VND890,000. Menus at other restaurants range from VND800,000 to over VND3,600,000.
The participating chefs in Hanoi also include one-Michelin-starred chef Raphael Le Mancq of Journeys to the East Restaurant, whose menu is the most expensive: VND3,600,000.
Le Mancq said expensive prices at Good France had more to do with promoting the best of French cuisine rather than with an individual chef's high ranking and profit-seeking.
For its part, the dinner party thrown for Vietnamese youths at the French Embassy will be headed by the embassy’s chef, one trained by the French foreign ministry, which Poirier said was itself a trusted source of culinary training.
Guests to be invited include 30 French-speaking students from the schools that the embassy has worked with: Chu Van An and Hanoi-Amsterdam high schools, the Hanoi University of Medicine and Hanoi Foreign Trade University.
Another dinner will be held at the French Consul in HCMC with the presence of Claude Bartolone, President of the French National Assembly, who will be visiting Vietnam from March 18-21.
This year’s Good France will draw 1,000 chefs worldwide. In Vietnam, besides Hanoi, one restaurant in Hue, one in Da Nang, two in Hoi An, and six restaurants in HCMC will also take part.

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