France is famous for its great restaurants, which draw many thousands of travelers every year. It’s not a coincidence that visitors to France often notice and enjoy visiting the large and plentiful local fresh food markets. The best chefs depend on those markets for buying their ingredients daily. One famous market, the Rungis food market, in Rungis, France, is the world’s largest fresh food market. Its colorful offerings and fresh, high-quality products make it the perfect destination for a traveler who loves food and cooking.
In fact, people come to France from all over the world to eat authentic French cuisine and learn how to cook it. It’s easy to see how the skill of French culinary training paired with the glamour of French cuisine attract those eager to learn the precision and artistry of the characteristically French cooking style. France has long been a leader in creating recipes that are delicious and subtly sophisticated.
Even in ancient times, Paris was a hub of culture and economic activity, and as such, was the place where the most highly skilled culinary craftsmen were found. Since the Middle Ages, French cuisine has been making much use of seasoning and spices, a characteristic still common in French nouvelle cuisine, along with the preservation of natural flavors, the use of only the freshest possible ingredients, and using herbs, butter, lemon juice, and vinegar in place of heavy sauces. French chefs are known for their ingenuity and their creations of new combinations and pairings.
The influence of French cooking and French culinary training can be seen in all corners of the world. In the 1800s, the French established a colony in Vietnam, and introduced the Vietnamese to ingredients such as potatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, lettuce, and carrots, now used so frequently in Vietnamese local cooking that they are considered a part of Vietnamese culinary culture. Modern Vietnamese cuisine includes coffee, baguettes, and French pastries, found everywhere in Vietnamese cities. During colonization, the French set up large coffee plantations, and Vietnam is now the world’s second largest coffee exporter, although the Vietnamese have developed their own style of coffee, made with condensed milk and served over ice. The Vietnamese term bánh mì, which means bread, has become synonymous with Vietnamese sandwiches, made with crusty baguettes and butter, pâté, grilled and cured meats, fresh pickles, onions, and cilantro, a dish that could have as easily been made in France. Another common Vietnamese treat that originated in France is the chocolate-filled croissant.
The evolution of modern Mexican gastronomy includes the influence of French cooking, so much so that there is a term for it: “la comida afrancescada”, which translates to “‘Frenchified’ cooking.” Maximilian and Carlota, monarchs who ruled the Second Mexican Empire in the 1800s with the support of France, brought French cuisine to Mexico with them, which then permeated Mexican culture, beginning with the feasts in their castle. They shared the French love of wine and served multiple different types of wine, even at breakfast.
In recent years, a group of Francophilic chefs has converged upon Portland, Oregon, in the US, and fused the cuisines of regional France and the Northwest. As a result, current culinary trends in Portland are influenced by French country cooks’ need in days gone by to make perishable food last through a season, by fermenting and drying. An example is the transformation of dried beans into cassoulet.
The art of French nouvelle cuisine and its global influence is epitomized by the work of one of the most famous French chefs, Lyon-based Paul Bocuse, for whom the world-renowned covered food market in Lyon, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, has been named. Bocuse has received numerous awards throughout his career, and is known for elevating his profession from being considered as a trade to being acclaimed as an art. Bocuse is widely credited with changing the face of French cuisine and exporting French cuisine globally in the ‘70s. Today the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition is the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world.
Bocuse has had numerous international students, many of whom have become famous chefs themselves and look up to Bocuse as a mentor. His disciples from the top restaurants around the world include Eckart Witzigmann, Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pépin, Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, and Charlie Palmer. The Institute Paul Bocuse Worldwide Alliance brings together universities in 14 countries to train students in French culinary arts.
Eating is a biological act of survival, and yet preparing food is a cultural art and tradition. The French culinary tradition has been imitated internationally and incorporated by master chefs into many local cuisines. The art of French cooking continues to attract aspiring chefs around the world.
If cooking is your passion, why don’t you consider visiting Aligre, the quintessential Parisian market, where you will be accompanied by an experienced private Parisian chef, who will guide you in choosing the freshest ingredients and teach you French culinary techniques while you cook a meal together?
If this blog post has inspired your inner chef and you’d like to give French cooking a try, sign up for Coloratour’s French cooking workshop the next time you’re in Paris. Click on the picture to find out more.