As part of my Year Abroad, I was lucky enough to spend six and a half months in Dijon, the capital of the Burgundy region. I was pretty excited to be going to France, mainly to appreciate something the French are well-known for: great food. However, I actually ended up being very disappointed with the quality of the French food. You would think that this wouldn’t be the case, seeing as French food not only has a UNESCO World Heritage status, but also the French pretty much invented the meaning of gourmet food. In fact, the effect of this decline is so strong that people now associate gourmet cuisine with the likes of Spain, Italy and even the UK!!
Consequently, I decided to find out why this was the case - and it seems that this problem is actually something which has been going on for several years. Essentially, the problem derives from the fact that not only do nearly half the country's restaurants not prepare their own food on site, but what's more is that 85 per cent of French restaurants use some form of frozen or vacuum-packed food. As a result, this means that the food served is of a lower quality.
However, you may ask why French restaurants can't just swap their food for a fresher, better quality counterpart. Well, the answer is that it isn't that simple. High labour and restaurant taxes accompanied by an economic crisis means that it is difficult to provide fresh food at a competitive price. Therefore, restaurants have had to make appropriate cuts in order to make a profit. It seems that frozen food is the perfect solution as not only is it cheaper, but you can hire less qualified chefs to cook it, and the fewer qualifications a person has the less they can get paid. However, this is slowly starting to backfire in the sense that customers are left more and more unsatisfied and so take their money elsewhere i.e. to slightly more expensive but better quality restaurants.
The French government are slowly trying to rectify the problem, as the worldwide reputation of French food brings in a lot of money in terms of tourism, so any damages to this reputation and it could have an effect on the French economy at large. This was why the government came up with the 'Fait à la maison' (Made on site) scheme as a ploy to attract people to eat in their restaurants.
However the plot thickens, as the rules of this scheme are actually very lax. For example, you have the right to put the 'Fait à la maison' sign in your window if you grow food in your own allotment (of course), but you also have the right to put it in your window if the food is grown in an allotment thousands of miles away and then imported. Therefore it seems the 'Fait à la maison' is a very loose term which people will be able to take advantage of quite easily.
All in all, while it may seem all doom and gloom, we have to remember that 8 restaurants in France featured in The Telegraph's Top 100 restaurants in 2015. It seems that the French still have a little something there, but then again judging by the prices on the menus I doubt they are worrying about keeping food at competitive prices…