Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Taste of Paris retrospectively

Building up to last month's Taste of Paris event, the organisers of which  had gone to great lengths in advertising on billboards, television and other social media platforms, I pre-booked tickets online and tried not to get too caught up in the  hype. Day one of the event was fairly lacklustre in attendance, and I dare say, in the offerings. There was an enormous champagne bar, courtesy of Laurent Perrier - and only one other drinks stand - which was really more like a corner café when compared to the LP stand. The only other places where you could have wine was the wine tasting stands, or the whisky stand if that was your thing. That alone should have been an indicator that the event had been pitched at a more wealthy audience, and touting more haute cuisine than simple good food.

Although I had been well aware of the line-up of chefs and 'culinary artists' who would be in attendance at the event - I had also hoped that the organisers would have drawn less celebrity chefs and more good cooks. Alongside the stalwarts of French culinary success like Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy were the younger generation that included Kei Kobayashi of Restaurant KeiDavid Rathgeber of L'Assiette - whom I am seeing more and more of on television as the next up-and-coming in the vein of Ducasse, Robuchon and Savoy - and Pierre Sang Boyer who runs Pierre Sang in Oberkampf. The line-up also included Jean-Louis Nomicos of Les Tablettes; Francis Fauvel from Aux Lyonnais - a Ducasse restaurant;  Stephanie Le Quellec from La ScèneFréderic Simonin of  Fréderic Simonin and Caffé Stern's Massimiliano Alajmo.

It was a wonderful experience to be under one roof with some of the most famous french chefs, sampling their food under the Grand Palais's enormous nave, but, there is always the but,... but it would have been even better to have seen a mix of the haute with just a bit of the quotidien. I would have loved to have seen some of the popular food trucks such as Le Camion Qui Fume alongside a stand by Grégory Marchand's laid back Frenchie-to-Go,  serving up some really simple,  but delightful food. Understandably the sponsors wanted to promote French cuisine, but the reality is that French cuisine is changing as French tastes take on a more international flavour.  A real mix with the smaller, lesser known chefs would have drawn more crowds I believe. It was wonderful to have Laurent Perrier sponsoring the event - that brought some glamour to the event with their out sized champagne bar - but much as I love my bubbles, I would really have liked to have drank something else on one of those nights.

Not to take too much away from this year's Taste of Paris, I could not help but notice a distinctly
overt marketing towards the more well-off - even though the tickets ranged from the medium to high depending on the package - I am still wondering who the target market was. With Porsche showing off its cars and Eithiad displaying its first class cabin; with more celebrity than every-day chef; and unfortunately with more foam than food in some of the dishes sampled - I am not sure if this year's Taste was as resounding a success as it could have been.
I have been sitting on my review for a while, and have been avoiding completing the survey from the organisers for a few weeks now because being in Paris, and expecting nothing but gastronomical delights from the culinary capital of the world,  I came away rather disappointed. I attended Johannesburg's Taste of Joburg event more than a decade ago, and that set the bar with respect of what other Tastes should be like - sorry Paris, this was not quite it.

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