Just like many other nations, the French suffered greatly during WW2. The threat of death aside, they were faced with great problems when it came to food; they starved! After the war, France rapidly grew, the problems went away and the people lived in prosperity. When the threat of starvation was eliminated, they did what everyone would do; they dove into the kitchen. Places that offered food pooped up like burrs and people began eating as if they were avenging starvation. French cuisine, which was originally based on previous centuries was enriched and a tastier, grander, buttery and calorie packed cuisine emerged, called “haute cuisine” which catapulted French cuisine to the top of the world.
Finally, every abundance brings repletion in the end. French people, who stuffed themselves after starvation, began showing signs of contentedness and new pursuits came about. The rebellion of 68, which I was a part of, started a New Wave in cinema and the New Novel movement in literature. For the people of France, who love eating as much as art and literature, a rebellion in culinary culture was inevitable. This is how Nouvelle Cuisine emerged. Traditional, heavy French cuisine tried to reinvent itself.
Hanri Gault and Christian Millau described Nouvelle Cuisine in 1973 in their magazine called Gault et Millau and published a manifesto titled the Ten Commandments to describe this new phenomenon. Here were the ten commandments:
- Thou shall shorten cooking time;
- Thou shall add new, fresh and quality ingredients to the cuisine;
- Thou shall simplify the menus;
- Thou shall use new cooking techniques;
- Thou shall not be a systematic modernist;
- Thou shall avoid high calorie, heavy sauced dishes;
- Thou shall avoid corning, decomposition and yeasting;
- Thou shall not deny the reality of dieting;
- Thou shall avoid presentation gimmicks;
- Thou shall be creative and free!
This movement, which focused on the selection and use of materials and left the chef in the background, aimed to simplify, slenderize and lighten traditional French cuisine. And in order to achieve this goal, it supported chefs to create freely and forget about old recipes. The movement quickly became popular all over the world. French cuisine was now enveloping the world with its new wave, Nouvelle Cuisine. However, it degenerated when it was widespread and applied by every chef; its popularity decreased, giving way to new applications and pursuits. Such so that chefs who introduced Nouvelle cuisine to the world began distancing themselves from the concept.
During all this turmoil, France exported countless chefs to the world. They began opening restaurants all around the world starting with New York and London and even moving on to Tokyo and Dubai. Among these chefs, who spend most of their time on planes and TV shows instead of the kitchen, are Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire and Daniel Boulud.
Even the entrance of Daniel’s restaurant in New York symbolizes French grandeur. The interior is heavily impressive. It’s the 3-star representative of French cuisine (not Nouvelle cuisine) in New York. The thing is, the famous chef doesn’t dedicate himself to this restaurant alone. His knowledge, skill and meticulousness can be seen in all his other establishments. Café Boulud, Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud in New York feed off the same source. And this is not all ! Daniel Boulud has spread to a wide area outside New York and has turned into a multi- industrial kitchen. There are establishments in Palm Beach, Miami, Singapore, London, Toronto, Montreal, Las Vegas, Washington DC an Boston that carry his signature.
No matter how skilled the chef is, it’s impossible to maintain the same quality in all restaurants. As a matter of fact, I was not pleased with the rabbit stew I had at the 3 macaroon Daniel’s in New York; it wasn’t as tasty as the ones in France. Do you know what guest chef M. Gautier said to me after I told him this while he was touring tables :
“I would be happy to host Monsieur in my restaurant in Biarritz” !
I could have gone to Biarritz a couple of time with the bill I paid after that meal but I didn’t; I thought ‘It would have been great if I had the same quality in New York with the price I paid”