French food takes Lebanon, the world

BEIRUT: Seven restaurants in Beirut will offer special dishes to celebrate the spring season, as part of a global project which aims to promote the rich history of French cuisine.

French Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli held a news conference Wednesday to introduce the Gout de France project in Lebanon to celebrate his country’s renowned gastronomy.

Cuisine is a bit like music, we can improvise and create it

Lebanon will participate in the first phase of the international event with 149 other countries from five continents. More than 1,300 chefs will participate by preparing French dishes, including seven Lebanese chefs who will represent famed restaurants in Beirut, such as Le Gabriel, Le Bergerac, Centrale, O Monot, Villa Clara, and Sydney’s.

French ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli poses with chefs in Beirut, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

“Each participating restaurant will pay tribute to innovative and vibrant French cuisine, while staying true to its basic values: sharing, pleasure and respect for a good meal,” Paoli said in his speech.

Dinners around the world will be held at the same time on the evening of March 19. The idea for the project was inspired by a 1912 initiative called “Les Diners d’Epicure” launched by late legendary French chef and culinary writer Auguste Escoffier.

“The event is important because it’s a global project that [French Foreign Minister] Laurent Fabius wanted to achieve on the international scale and in Lebanon where it has a big significance,” Paoli told The Daily Star after the conference.

“There is an extremely strong relation between France and Lebanon, and many Lebanese chefs were educated in France and many French chefs work here [in Lebanon], so the strong relation is represented even in cuisine.”

Villa Clara Restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Villa Clara by Joe Keserouani)

Paoli added that both Lebanon and France have a rich culinary tradition. “It’s very interesting to see the combination of French cuisine and Lebanese food,” he said. “This is not to impose French gastronomy but to make it more modern and vibrant by showcasing it through the work of talented Lebanese chefs.

“Cuisine is a bit like music, we can improvise and create it, and that’s why it’s a big event”

One of the chefs, Youssef Akiki, works at Burgundy, a restaurant and wine bar in Beirut’s Saifi Village. His work is inspired by a French restaurant of the same name. The restaurant’s co-owner Ziad Mouawad, attended the conference with Akiki to announce their participation.

“They chose Burgundy in two ways. The French Embassy first called us saying that there is an event if you like to participate, and our answer was immediately that we would love to participate,” Mouawad told The Daily Star. “Another reason to participate is that if we don’t, who will? We are a purely French restaurant and our daily menu is that of a French cuisine.”

People who will go to Burgundy on March 19 will be delighted with four main meals, including a filet de bœuf grillé a la plancha and a puree de topinambours et celeri en textures, a cheese specialty that goes with the wine, Mouawad said.

Burgundy. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

Another chef, Amine Bou Ghosn, will be preparing six entrees including a magret de canard frotte aux genievres and a medaillon de loup de mer poche sur un tatin d’endives caramélisées au jus d’agrumes. Bou Ghosn was representing Le Gabriel Hotel with its executive assistant manager, Marie-Christine Hakime.

“It’s a good opportunity to be in such a very important event for us as we made renovations to our hotel and restaurant,” Hakime said. “It was great for us to be able to participate and tell the world that we are able to offer a cuisine that is on the international level.”





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