By WINNIE ANDREWS
The French culinary organization Le Fooding will host its first New York event this weekend at P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center in Long Island City. There will be no frogs’ legs or escargot.
Instead, the diverse menu includes teriyaki-pineapple pork ribs and a simmered beef with chilled camembert meringue among other non-traditional choices.
“No one eats frogs’ legs and beef bourguignon anymore in France. We don’t deny that part of our history, but we are much more open minded to new things,” said Anna Polonski, the media cordinator for Le Fooding.
While all of France might not be eating pineapple ribs regularly, the diverse food options at the Le Fooding event this weekend is indicative of an opening up in French cuisine towards new flavors and styles. The traditional French meal of meat with lots of sauces can still be found, but there are more and more options.
Steve Zagor agreed that French meals have changed in recent years. He is the director of management programs at the Institute of Culinary Education. He said traditional French food contained “a lot of butter and a lot of complicated preparations.” But, he continued, “today, it’s much more simplified, much more healthy.” He thought about that phrasing before correcting himself, “it’s less unhealthy” he said.
Irene Sax, a New York based food writer who teaches in the food studies department at New York University, said there has been a significant increase in Asian and African influences on French cuisine in recent years.
Polonski, who is here in New York to help organize the Le Fooding event, called Le Fooding d’Amour New York-Paris, pointed to people like Inaki Aizpitarte, the chef at the Paris restaurant Chateaubriand, as an example of how world cuisine is becoming more influential in French food. She compares David Chang’s Korean inspired Momofuku restaurants like Noodle Bar and Bo Ssam in Manhattan, to Aizpitarte’s causual, multi-ethnic inspired Paris restaurant. Polonski said such laid back, experimental cuisine was not present in France ten years ago.
Food in France is still about the taste rather than the calorie count. But Polonski said chefs like Stéphane Jégo, from the Parisian restaurant L’Ami Jean, which has three stars out of five in the prestigious Michelin rating guide, are focusing on what is known as terroir cuisine, regional food with a focus on taste and the quality of products. Jégo cooks simply “typical French meat with butter, but much more refined” said Polonski.
Le Fooding has two main projects, publishing an annual restaurant guide and putting on large public events that incorporate food. But Le Fooding is about more than just the food. “The idea is to gather what’s happening right now, in terms of food, art and music” said Polonski. In that vein, Le Fooding guides include graphic designs representing the feeling invoked by certain restaurants. Their events are only loosely based around food, while incorporating music and art.
The only criteria to get into the guide are simple: the reviewer has to want to eat at the restaurant again and the restaurants must be “sincere and honest,” according to Polonski.
Polonski said Le Fooding is trying to help people see how food can be fun and enjoyable in many different venues and styles. Last year, the week long Semaine de Fooding event focused on the history of cuisine. Famous chefs at the event described how today’s common dishes were made 100 years ago. Chefs there explained how salmon, for example, was once cooked in a crepe and served with heavy sauces and potatoes. Now, the tendency is to serve it almost raw with a simple relish of cilantro said Polonski.
Le Fooding d’Amour Paris – New York will bring some of Le Fooding’s favorite chefs from New York and Paris together. David Chang of Momofuku and Daniel Boulud of Daniel’s, are two of the six New York chefs who will be there along with six French chefs, including Stéphane Jégo, of the Paris restuarant L’Ami Jean.
There will be cheese and wine on the menu both nights. But most of the dishes aren’t traditional French fare. Instead, fried corn with scallop butter, Bo Ssam, a Korean dish made of steamed pork wrapped in lettuce, and Moroccan couscous will be included. Salted chocolate-hazelnut and bourbon-vanilla ice cream will also be served.
According to Michael Batterberry, the author of “On the Town in New York, the Landmark History of Eating, Drinking, and Entertainments from the American Revolution to the Food Revolution,” the French first brought ice cream to the general public in the United States. Batterberry said ice cream was made popular by the French in their outdoor pleasure gardens in the Bowery after the French Revolution.
Le Fooding d’Amour takes place this weekend, Sept. 25 and 26, from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets cost $30 and the benefits will go to Action Against Hunger. The new edition of Le Fooding comes out on November 12 in France. The guide includes 800 reviews of restaurants, all in France. For the first time, the guide will have brief translations of reviews into English.