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.
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.
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.