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.

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.

African-American Paris – the Left Bank

Mention the Left Bank in Paris and visions of Bohemian nightspots, university students sipping coffee at sidewalk cafés, and vendors selling books and souvenirs along the Seine River spring to mind. While this image is quintessentially European, the careful observer will also note evidence of African-American influence there!

For example, Caveau de la Huchette, an old, atmospheric jazz club on rue de la Huchette, boasts an image of Louis Armstrong at the entrance. This and numerous other venues in the Left Bank and throughout the city owe their existence to the presence of the African-American musicians who introduced jazz to France in World War I.

Caveau de la Huchette 3

Caveau de la Huchette
© Discover Paris!

Not far away, on rue du Petit Pont, a mosaic likeness of Muhammad Ali graces the façade of the bar Polly Maggoo.

Fliers advertising gospel music concerts abound. At least one such concert is held in the city during any given week!

The African-American influence is much more far-reaching than these physical elements. But one must be extremely knowledgeable or tour the city with a qualified guide to recognize and appreciate it.

Case in point: most Americans don’t realize that the Left Bank was home for celebrated African Americans such as writers Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes, and artists such as Herbert Gentry, Ed Clark, and Beauford Delaney. They don’t know that Gertrude Stein helped Richard Wright settle in Paris or that James Baldwin rewrote Go Tell It on the Mountain at the famous Café de Flore.

Another case in point: numerous African Americans have studied at the Sorbonne – including Carter G. Woodson, founder of Negro History Week (which is now African-American History Month). French students who participated in the 1968 uprising were inspired by civil rights activists such as Stokely Carmichael and a number of African-American expats who lived in Paris, and who were at the time sympathetic to the movement and offered the students assistance. In collaboration with several other universities, the Sorbonne has organized multiple events honoring and exploring the African-American presence in Europe.

The beautiful Luxembourg Garden was frequented by African-American writers and artists before and after the Second World War. Henry Ossawa Tanner’s works hung in the Luxembourg Museum until 1937 and Lois Maïlou Jones painted several landscapes in the garden before and after the war. Across the street from the garden, a post-WWII crowd of African-American writers, artists, and musicians hung out at the Café Tournon.

Luxembourg Garden © Discover Paris!

Luxembourg Garden
© Discover Paris!

Farther west, the Saint Germain des Prés quarter was James Baldwin’s stomping ground. He submitted his famous article Everybody’s Protest Novel to the editors of Zero magazine, which was located near the Saint-Germain church. Art galleries are prominent in this area, and African Americans have exhibited their works at several of them. Down by the river, a 19th-century African American studied at the domed Institut de France (French Institute) before returning to the U. S. to become a Shakespearean actor.

Institut de France © Discover Paris!

Institut de France
© Discover Paris!

If you’re surprised to learn about the history of African Americans in Paris, you’ll be even more surprised to learn that the information presented here is just the tip of the iceberg! African Americans have over 200 years of history in Paris and their influence extends throughout the entire city, not just the Left Bank. They continue to leave their mark on the city today.

For more information, visit Entrée to Black Paris.

Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

Beauford Delaney at the Pompidou Center

I am passionate about the life and art of Beauford Delaney.

Beauford was an African-American man, an artist, and an expatriate. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1901, he moved to Paris in 1953 after spending several years of his adult life in Boston and New York City. He died in Paris in 1979, leaving a legacy of brilliant portraits and abstract expressionist works for the world to enjoy.

As president of the French not-for-profit association called Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, I regularly write a blog to increase public awareness of Beauford’s legacy. I am pleased to announce that one of his works is on display at the Pompidou Center in Paris. It was donated to the museum by Solange and Jacques du Closel, who were devoted patrons of Beauford’s art.

Centre Pompidou © Discover Paris!

Centre Pompidou
© Discover Paris!

This magnificent abstract is part of an exposition entitled Multiple Modernities 1905-1970 (also called Plural Modalities). It hangs in a short corridor (Traverse G) between Rooms 31 and 34 on the 5th floor of the museum.

Because the painting is displayed in a corridor, rather than a room, it can be difficult to find. When I went to see it, one of the attendants was kind enough to walk me to the exact location of the painting.

Monique and Beauford's Untitled (1957) Oil on canvas © Discover Paris! © Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

Monique and Beauford’s Untitled (1957) Oil on canvas
© Discover Paris!
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

The label next to the painting presents the following information in English (translated from French):

African-American artist Pierre [sic] Beauford-Delaney studied in Boston then at the Art Student League in New York, with John Sloan. He joined the Harlem Renaissance movement, which was struggling for African-American emancipation, and started painting live portraits of jazz musicians playing in Harlem jazz clubs. He had settled in Paris by 1953, when he had gravitated toward abstract expressionism. In this work, the distinguishable blue figure in the thick swirl of predominantly red and yellow paint could be an animal.

The biographical information is scant and not quite accurate (Beauford began his New York career by painting dancers and society women at Billy Pierce’s Dancing School, not by painting jazz musicians). Also, for reasons unknown, the Pompidou Center has listed his name as Pierre Beauford-Delaney in the English version of the label, rather than simply Beauford Delaney.

All that aside, the work is superb – it is well worth a trip to the museum to see it! The painting is on display through January 26, 2015.

Centre Georges Pompidou
19 Rue Beaubourg
75004 Paris
Telephone: 01 44 78 12 33
Metro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, and Châtelet
Open every day except Tuesdays and May 1.
Hours: 11am-10pm. No tickets sold after 8pm.

Monique Y.Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

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