Alain Ducasse says the pandemic accelerated the evolution of French cuisine. But some are in no hurry to abandon the generations-old rituals that define the Gallic art of eating.

“French cuisine has always been in a state of movement,” said famed French chef Alain Ducasse, taking a sip of crimson-hued sparkling wine, surrounded by the empty wooden tables of his Paris restaurant Aux Lyonnais. It was a warm day in March 2021. A soft breeze floated into the restaurant through the takeaway window, sunbeams illuminating the empty burgundy leather booths. The maitre d’, dressed in a suit, glided between the kitchen and the curb, brown paper bags brimming with plant-based fare ready to hand off for delivery. The crinkling of the bags in motion was the loudest sound in the room.

Things are different now. After months of lockdown measures, curfews and restaurant closures, Paris is slowly beginning to resemble its former self. The packed tables of cafe terrasses spill off pavements and onto boulevards, waiters once again balancing glasses of rosé on silver platters and cigarette smoke lingering in a never-fading cloud. The chirping birds along the Boulevard Saint-Germain have been replaced by the constant drone of revving engines.

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