Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know about the New French Law

Effective January 1st, a new French law takes effect that will change the way you select your food in French restaurants. On that date, all restaurants in France (whether they claim to prepare homemade dishes or not) will be required to indicate somewhere in the restaurant the definition of what a homemade dish is:

Les plats « faits maison » sont élaborés sur place à partir de produits bruts.

This sentence states that homemade dishes are those that have been prepared in-house from raw products.

Bringing consistency to the restaurant industry, the law goes on to state what comprises a homemade dish:

  • “Prepared in-house” means that the raw products arrive from a supplier for elaboration in the kitchen of the restaurant.
  • “Raw products” means that each element of the dish arrives at the restaurant in a raw state. It cannot have undergone cooking or transformation by other processes or have been mixed with other products that might have transformed it from its natural state.

However, the term “raw products” does not mean that the produce must arrive fresh from the farm. Between the farm and the restaurant, food items can undergo certain processes that do not affect their basic nature. Examples include cleaning, peeling (except for potatoes), slicing, cutting, deboning, shelling, grinding, milling, smoking, and salting, or processes that preserve them from spoilage, such as refrigeration, freezing, or sealing them in vacuum packs.

Recognizing that it would be impractical to impose the requirement that chefs make all of their ingredients in-house, the law goes on to list products that may be used even though they have undergone transformation from their natural state:

  • Cured fish and sausage, but not terrines or pâtés
Cheese, milk, sour cream, animal fat
  • Bread, flour, and cookies
  • Dried or candied vegetables and fruit
  • Pasta and cereal
  • Raw sauerkraut
  • Rising agents, sugar, and gelatin
  • Condiments, spices, herbs, concentrates, chocolate, coffee, tea
  • Syrup, wine, alcohol, and liqueurs
  • Blanched offal
  • Raw puff pastry
  • Fowl, fish, and meat stocks, subject to informing the consumer of their use.

Restaurants that claim to make homemade dishes must identify these dishes on their menus either with the notation “Fait maison” or with the “Fait maison” image (a roof of a house over a frying pan). Restaurants that claim that all of their dishes are homemade may indicate that fact before each dish or indicate it in a unique spot on the menu.

This new law has already provoked controversy in the restaurant industry, with some chefs wondering whether important ingredients that they have been using fall under the list of exceptions. Some wonder how homemade dishes they normally prepare that are accompanied with a transformed element that is not an exception might qualify under the law. An example of such a case would be a homemade crêpe served with an industrially-produced jam.

As for consumers, the new law should go a long way to remove the doubt about whether a dish that they order in a restaurant in France is homemade or not.

On your next trip to Paris, be sure to look for the “fait maison” logo when you dine out.

Bon appétit!
Tom Reeves

Tom Reeves is the author of a recent e-book entitled Dining Out in Paris – What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light.

Creole Culinary Awards for 2014

When I wrote my cookbook, Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris (Elton Wolf Publishing, 2000), to pay tribute to my Creole heritage and the foods derived from that heritage, I described Creole cuisine as being born out of the same cultural mix that produced the people and the language of southern Louisiana.

So imagine my surprise when, upon moving to Paris 22 years ago, I discovered that Creole restaurants in the city served none of the dishes I had grown up with! These restaurants featured recipes from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion Island, Mauritius, and other far-flung places that I would never have thought to associate with the word “Creole.” Since my initial shock, I’ve eaten at many of them and thoroughly appreciate their fare.

Recently, I was intrigued to learn that there is a French organization devoted to the promotion of Creole culture, including its gastronomic traditions. Called the Creole World Institute, it held its first award ceremony on December 20, 2014 to celebrate the best of Creole cuisine in the Francophone world.

Trophées de l’Art Culinaire Créole award

Trophées de l’Art Culinaire Créole award

The goal of the Trophées de l’Art Cullinaire Créole (Trophies for Creole Culinary Art) award ceremony is to highlight the contributions that Creole cuisine has made and continues to make to French cuisine.

Award categories include:

Trophée Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur Trophy): for those who respect Creole culinary traditions and promote them through their preparation of traditional, modern, and innovative dishes

Trophée “avenir” (“Future” Trophy): for a young culinary professional who particularly distinguished himself or herself over the course of the last 1-2 years

Trophée d’Honneur (Trophy of Honor): for persons (whether culinary professionals or not) who demystify and passionately promote the recognition of Creole cuisine

Grand-Prix de l’Academie de l’Art Culinaire du Monde Créole (Grand Prize of the Culinary Art Academy of the Creole World): for a person selected by the Culinary Art Academy of the Creole World

Grand-prix d’Honneur de la l’Art Culinaire Créole (Grand Prize of Honor for Creole Culinary Art): for a person, institution, or geographical entity (city, region…) that has particular distinction in the domain of Creole culinary culture.

Prix d’Excellence (Excellence Prize): for a person who has devoted his or her life to the defense, promotion, recognition, and dissemination of knowledge about Creole cuisine.

The ceremony was organized under the patronage of France’s Ministry of Overseas Territories, the Department of Mayotte, which was recently named as a French territory, and the Paris Mayor’s office.

Babette de Rozières Winner of the Grand Prize of Honor

Babette de Rozières
Winner of the Grand Prize of Honor

The winners were presented to a crowd of approximately 300 persons. Among them was Babette de Rozières of Guadeloupe, who received the Grand Prize of Honor for Creole Culinary Art. De Rozières is a veritable icon and one of the few women who enjoy success in the culinary field. A restaurant owner, cookbook author, and culinary TV personality, she began her career by working in various posts in public television and radio, and cooking part time at some of the most prestigious hotels in Paris. She purchased her first restaurant in 1978, has co-hosted various television shows since 1988, and won an international award for her first cookbook—a four-volume set on Antillean cooking—in 2004. Her latest restaurant, La Case de Babette, is located in the Paris suburb of Maule.

The only other winner with a restaurant in the Paris area is Gustave Monpierre of Guadeloupe. He owns Doudou Kréyol in the Paris suburb of Alfortville. The remaining laureates hail from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, and Reunion Island.

Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris!, author of Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris, and the editor of the free, weekly online publication Paris Insights – the Restaurant Reviews.

Moving to NY

Saturday, January 09, 1999
7:27:23 AM

From the window seat of a greyhound bus, New York City had the look of a huge group of tall pointy-headed monsters, standing shoulder to shoulder. Coming up the Jersey Turnpike, my bus took its place in the herd of prey headed to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Just like I pictured it―skyscrapers and everything.

For 4 hours, I half slept and thought about exactly what the hell I was doing. With 2 years working in D.C. under my belt, I needed the challenge of one of the two coasts. Coming to New York was an easy choice, since I had cousins there. And no money to get to LA. I gathered a few dollars and my ever loving mom gave me a few dollars more. After 2 weeks of staying with fellow comic John Mulrooney, I was going to be hurting for a residence. I had bookings for 2 weekends in a row, and the plan was to get more work, keep this thing going. Ok, so they were Jersey gigs, but they paid cash. I took it as a good omen the fact that I had 2 seats on the bus all to myself. I kept my bag with my notebooks in one, and I stared through the window, not noticing the rain and dark skies.

My mood did not allow for conversation, and I barely looked at any of the other passengers. I checked my will, my desire and my strength to make sure I had enough to handle what was ahead. I kept patting the pocket with my wallet and thought of how I used to watch Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and George Carlin on the Ed Sullivan show. Scenes from high school plays flashed through my head.

In the Lincoln Tunnel, I knew this was it. Fear and terror requested access to my psyche and were flat out turned away by my belief and resolve. I was here with a purpose, I had come to do standup comedy. Ha! I had come to be eaten by the monster known as the entertainment industry! I did remember the “Livin For The City” Stevie Wonder tune because the first thing I did when I got off the bus was, not accept a package from a stranger.

William Stephenson

Saying Something

I have been riding the NYC subway system since moving here some 30 years ago. All things considered, it’s the best way to navigate this rough and tumble town. If you own a car you, you should be at least rich, or plan to live in it because parking is a female dog.

Riders are told that if they see something, say something. That is just a catchy phrase because snitches get stitches. The bold among us will video any activity destined to get many hits on YouTube. I suppose that is saying, something. I’ve seen drunks splayed out on the floor. Couple fights are common on late weekend nights. Once I saw a guy with a look that strongly suggested he wasn’t going to make it all the way home. I knew he was going to throw up so I sat a safe distance away.

I saw something the other day and I said something. I was seated in a car with no vacant seats and several standees. An older man just to my right was laden with several bags and a suitcase. When his stop came, he gathered his stuff and made his way toward the door. A guy standing in front of him noticed a stamped envelope laying on the seat. It looked to be a personal letter that was addressed by hand. I indicated it wasn’t mine and he grabbed it and headed toward the closing doors. He didn’t quite make it but managed to get his arm jammed through with the letter. He flung the envelope to the platform after calling out to the likely owner. As the train pulled out, we watched the man see it and break out an ear-to-ear grin.

I said to the guy that did the cool thing, “nice work.”

William Stephenson

My First Hit Of Standup

My first hit of standup comedy took place in 1982 at Garvin’s Laugh Inn in Washington, DC. It was open mic night and I was number 13. Not exactly an encouraging number. I had plenty of time to get nervous enough to sip on a little Hennesey before I went on.

Good thing I had been onstage before, not as a comic, but, as an actor and clarinet player in high school. I had an idea of what it felt like to have lights shining on you while people watched what you did. For many, the idea alone would cause such severe stagefright that most people would never consider stepping on stage. I was 25 years old and buoyed by the support of my then-girlfriend, Brenda. It was her idea for me to sign up and do five minutes. We spent hours at the International House of Pancakes scribbling notes on the placemat. She was a teacher and knew I was looking for a career change, when we met I was tending bar. Just before that, I was driving a cab. It was time to take it higher.

Sam Greenfield, talk show host for KXNT in Las Vegas at the time, was the emcee that first night. The club wasn’t packed, but I remember there was a nice sized crowd…at the beginning of the show. By the time, Sammy called my name, a decent chunk of the crowd split. That was fine with me, the fewer people that see me drop a bomb, the better. I told no one in my family what I was doing. They would have yawned a “that’s nice,” then teased me like the devil.

I’m positive they would’ve been supportive, but before I made the announcement I had to figure out if I could do it. Brenda sat in the middle of the club and maintained a tight grin throughout my set. I was so glad she was there. She was always there for me in my good old days, driving me to the club every week.

I never decided to hold the microphone or leave it in the stand, so I did plenty of both. (A clear rookie mistake). In the five minutes I was onstage that cherry-busting first time, I got exactly one laugh from the “jokes” I told. Most of the things I said were ramblings of a confused man, going nowhere and saying nothing.

If I live to be a thousand, I will always have a crystal clear recollection of what that first laugh did for me. I felt a ring of electricity surrounding me, erasing the ugliness of the other 4 and a half minutes of my debut. The winning joke I told involved Leon Spinks trying to buy an Aretha Franklin tape. The clerk, thinking he said reefer, informed him that the record store didn’t sell marijuana.

The one, sweet laugh I got juiced me enough to come back the following week and go for 2. Those first weeks were torturous, and I knew I had to write some material that would make me stand out. I recalled what a teacher told me in a Black psychology class during my brief stint at a community college. She said the reason people without color (white folk) oppress people of color (mainly Black folk) is because they were jealous and it was human nature to be mean to people who had stuff you wanted.

From her way of thinking came, “So You Want To Be Black” in the form of an off-the-wall game show. Brenda came up with the brilliant idea of asking Washington Post columnist Bob Levy to be a guest contestant. I never thought he would, but he came down to Garvin’s and did well on the show, ending with being named honorary Black for one year.

On March 6, 1983 he wrote about his open mike experience and said, “If you come to Garvins on a Sunday night, bring earplugs. Remove them for William.” That article pumped me up for years, giving me written proof that I was funny.

William Stephenson

Resolution Revolution: Top 5 Ways to Kick-Start Success in 2015

I’ve made it no secret that I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Though I certainly appreciate the notion, overall waiting till New Year’s to make vital life changes can be detrimental to the flow of personal development. That being said, with the end of this year quickly approaching why not focus on self-improvement?! Without further ado, I present my top 5 ways to kick-start your success in 2015.

5. Clean Up!

Cool your jets, people! No one is suggesting that your house needs to be spotless simply because we’re approaching a new year. However, I can’t think of a better time to throw away old papers/documents and get rid of dated or too small clothing, toys your children have outgrown, etc. There are donation centers across the globe just pining for your old things and many will even come to you! This is a perfect opportunity to help yourself as well as many others. Cleaning up your clutter can have profound effects on your general well-being as well as your productivity.

4. Cut Old Ties…

No, this isn’t some sort of weird DIY arts and crafts project. Rather, my suggestion is that you sever all relationships that no longer suit you. We all have at least one (some of us, quite a few) person in our lives that don’t deserve to be there. Stop wasting time! No matter the reason, if you feel someone doesn’t deserve your time, stop giving it to them! You’ll be surprised at how much your life can improve once you stop wasting energy on superficial interactions…

3. Read!

Ok, this may be a no-brainer, but the best way to learn new habits is to read! Seriously, everything you’ve dreamed of doing has likely already been written about in detail. Most people never achieve their goals because they don’t know where to start. It’s a very good idea to begin by reading about those who accomplished their goals.

2. Reevaluate/Write Down Your Goals

The best way to stay focused on a goal is to write about it in detail. Create a “‘goal journal,” write down all your short and long-term goals, and regularly update!

1. Just Do It!

Now that you have all of your ducks in a row get to work! Preparation is important, but the most prepared person in the world will still get nothing done if she or he doesn’t put their plan into action. Create a goal and make it happen!

Overall, making changes in your life can be scary. Follow these steps and you’ll be that much closer to achieving things you may have already decided are impossible. Indeed, once you begin taking chances you’ll realize that impossible…is impossible.

Venus L

Afrodisiac: On the Alluring Latest Trend of 'Going Natural'

In case you haven’t paid much attention, there is a trend among black and brown women “going natural” with their hairstyles. If you are not a part of this community, or are not at least close to someone who is, this article may confuse you. So, first…

What Is “Going Natural?”

I’m so glad you asked! For many decades the vast majority of black women (at least in the United States) have been utilizing perms and other chemicals in order to straighten their hair permanently. Many begin this process at some point in childhood and continue for the remainder of their lives.

What’s the Big Deal?

Well, if you’ve seen “Good Hair” by Chris Rock, you undoubtedly know the answer. If not, (I suggest you do!). These chemicals may have a plethora of side effects on the body and have also been known to cause permanent damage to hair follicles. The old saying, “No pain, no gain” comes to mind as straightened hair is the coveted method of style for many African American females. However, to veer outside of the straightened method one also risks choosing a style that others, or even one’s self, may not view as attractive.

The Appeal?

Lately, many “minority” women realize the risk may not outweigh the gains when dealing with chemically altering hair. A significant number have experienced damaged and/or hair loss, bald spots, heavy breakage, etc. as a result of using relaxers. All the side effects are visually embarrassing.

Until recently, many natural hair women were not aware of the best ways to maintain their hair. However, thanks to Youtube, Pinterest, and a host of other resources numerous women are now confident enough to rock their own versions of many DIY styles. Examples of natural hair styles are possible for more women who want to embrace their natural hair texture.

Overall, the beauty of hair is in the eye of the beholder. Many women are going natural more out of necessity than ideology as, as aforementioned, they have endured extensive damage due to usage/ improper usage of said products. No matter how you decide to wear your hair, make sure it’s healthy and clean. The rest will fall into place. Well, maybe not literally…

Venus L

Bigger Fish to Fry: Tim Cook and Over-Sexualization of American Culture

Upon reading about yet another public figure who has “come out of the closet,” (namely, Apple CEO, Tim Cook), and skimming through the abundance of strongly worded comments, I started thinking, why is the necessary?!

Don’t Get Me Wrong…

I have absolutely nothing against anyone’s sexual orientation. However, why does this seem to be all we focus on as a culture? Think about it, announcing that you’re gay or straight is really just a way of stating who you prefer to have sex with…when did this become everyone else’s business?
Do heterosexuals have to declare, “I SLEEP WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX” for any reason? Usually not. So, why then is such declaration becoming a celebrated staple in the homosexual community? It’s one thing to disclose this information to your closest family and friends, it’s quite another to literally shout this very private info to the mountaintops.

Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That…

Honestly, I can feel some of you taking me the wrong way, so let me clarify. Who I have sex with is no more anyone’s business than who the CEO of Apple decides to have sex with. I get it, he’s a public figure and inquiring minds want to know…but curiosity also killed the cat (pun unintended).

Just because people want to know our sexual orientation, doesn’t mean we have to share. Of course, I never want anyone to feel ashamed. All the same, perhaps the only reason the homosexual community feels compelled to publicly declare their sexuality is because heterosexuals routinely parade and showcase their sexuality for the world to see. You can’t turn on the television without some blatant display of heterosexual culture. Even so, people become appalled when shows add homosexual characters and allow them to do the same.

Leave the Sex Stuff at Home…

Though I admire the strength it must take for anyone to go public with their sexual orientation, it’s really not necessary. Besides the asexual, the rest of us have sex at some point. Is it really that big of a deal that a man, (a filthy rich man whom you will likely never meet), may be lying with another man at night instead of a woman? It really shouldn’t be.

We as a society worry far too much about the who of things rather than the why. That is to say, today there are a plethora of unhealthy heterosexual relationships. So far as I’m concerned, heterosexuality is not necessarily a mark of normalcy. Meanwhile, the world may be on the verge of another war. There are famines, droughts, and epidemics…people, we have bigger fish to fry!

Venus L

Your New Year’s Evolution

Your New Year’s Evolution

Have you already set your New Year’s resolutions? Or are you still thinking about what they will be?

Either way, I encourage you to stop and consider thinking about things in a new way!

Instead of resolving to make one or more huge modifications that are supposed to transform your life (and feeling guilty after you don’t even get through the first week of the year before reverting to your old habits), pick one, SMALL thing that you can work to change. Focus on this and reward yourself every time you act upon it.

What you’ll discover is that this “thing” will become easier and easier to do (or not do). Days will turn into weeks, weeks will turn into months, and before you know it, you’ll have achieved your goal. Best of all, you’ll have minimal stress, guilt, and anxiety along the way.

This is what I call a New Year’s EVOLUTION, and I believe it is a much more desirable aspiration than the traditional New Year’s resolution.

Evolution occurs little by little, over time. It is subtle, yet steady. In contrast, revolution occurs quickly, but it is often violent and painful. If you choose the path of evolution over revolution in your life, you’ll avoid overwhelm. More importantly, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

For example, instead of resolving to “stop procrastinating” this year, pick one thing that you procrastinate on, figure out why you avoid doing it, and create a plan to reduce, if not eliminate this tendency:

  • Ask yourself if there’s anyone else who could – or should – be doing this task instead of you. If the answer is yes, find that person and get him or her to work on it!
  • If delegation of the task is not an option, ask yourself if there’s anything that you like, or at least don’t dislike, about the thing you procrastinate on. List everything you can think of. The next time the pesky task comes along, focus on one or more of the things on this list when you tackle it.
  • If you can’t think of a single thing that will make the task more palatable for you, then make your reward for finishing it a big one – something that is sure to inspire you!

The most important thing to remember is that you want to take baby steps instead of quantum leaps when you look to make profound changes in your life. And you want to be sure to make yourself feel good with every step you take!

Monique Y. Wells is the founder of Making Productivity Easy and the Doing What Matters™ mentoring program.

Rockin' Your Fails: On The Trial and Error of Natural Hair

In case you aren’t yet aware, the term “natural hair” typically refers to an African-American, “black,” or “brown” woman’s hair. A woman whose hair is natural has decided to embrace the innate texture of her hair, rather than use straightening chemicals. The natural hair movement is gaining more steam. However, many women were apprehensive about taking this step as information on natural hair care has been scarce until recent years. Indeed, finding someone to help you apply a lacefront wig is far easier than finding someone to help you tame your natural black or brown mane…

To Try is to Fail…

From what I gather, most women who prefer chemically relaxed hair, do so because they are at least somewhat afraid of having to manage their own kinky coils in their natural state. Given the fact that much of the natural hair world is based on DIY styles, I can imagine how this would intimidate anyone who has no prior experience in hair care.
Fear not! Hairstyling doesn’t have to be so serious. If you try something and it doesn’t work, try something else! A lot of what women fear is actually what makes dealing with natural hair so exciting. No two people have the same exact hair type; thus, a product or style that worked great for one Naturalista, may result in an epic hair fail for another.

Make it Work!

All hairstyles are based on trial and error, not just natural ones. To create a new style, hairdressers have to envision it and execute the style, either on themselves or a client. Natural hair is no different. If you’ve never styled your hair before, expect the first time not to be perfect. Sometimes twists-outs become Afros and coils become twists, but do not become discouraged! There is an array of styles for you to try, and sometimes you stumble upon your own signature look whilst mimicking someone else’s awesomeness.

The Bottom Line…

Our hair is unique as a fingerprint. There is no cookie-cutter way to wear your hair. You have to discover what works for you, and work it out!!

Venus L

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