Tuesday, November 09, 2004

French food problems

According to the Telegraph, the French may be sacrificing gastronomic excellence for convenience: Figures from the food companies and the French National Economic Statistics Institute, INSEE, confirm this. They all say that the French, unable to escape the globalisation wave, are dropping grandmother's apron in favour of an easy life in the kitchen. Even if the French take the trouble to cook, they will often use processed ingredients, such as canned sauce, prepared meat and vegetables and industrial cheese.
"The way French people eat today is quite appalling; it's all ready-made, straight into the microwave," says French-born Eric Chavot, Michelin-starred chef at the
Capital restaurant in London. "I'm shocked every time I go back to France - they don't cook any more."

The article quotes people on both sides, variously saying things are and aren't getting worse, but this quote is the most interesting: French restaurateurs, who work in a highly competitive environment, say they are under constant pressure to squeeze costs, due to the 35-hour working week and high taxes. For them, it becomes cheaper to use "cooking helps" (as those products are called) [bought in prepared food] than to employ more staff to do the ground work. "In terms of restaurant business, we feel totally paralysed in France," one restaurant owner says.

I don't know how French restaurants get around the 35 hr week. At the restaurant I used to work in, roughly 1/2 AA Rosette standard food, I would sometimes exceed 35 hours in three days. And as for top Michelin starred establishments, you might exceed 35 hours in two days. They might employ more staff to do the same amount of work, but this runs into training and continuity problems. Perhaps the staff "volunteer" to work overtime and are paid extra for their official hours. Or perhaps restaurants have an opt out from the law.


Blogger Catherine said...

Interesting article on French food. The wine consumption is even declining in France.

French online

15 April 2011 at 01:10  

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