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Intangible heritage: Dining on good food

There is one misconception French ambassador to the Philippines Thierry Mathou wishes to dispel.

“The idea here in the Philippines is that French cuisine is elitist. When you go out in the weekend, you go out to eat in other restaurants, but not French,” shares the ambassador.
Not to dissuade anyone, but the ambassador’s observation does ring a bell. Filipinos are known to bond over good food especially during weekends. This habit has, in fact, helped pave the way for local and international dining concepts to open in many parts of the metro and other major cities in the country. While there are quite a number of French restaurants around, there is not much recall for them as compared to their European counterparts such as Italian and Spanish.
Ambassador Mathou, however, reiterates that French cuisine is not snobbish. In fact, he highlights reasons why it could be a choice for food-loving Filipinos.
“French cuisine is not elitist at all. Of course, sometimes it is quite complicated and elaborate, but it is actually a cuisine that comes from the roots, the people, which is part of our culture. Once again, it is the same for you. Actually we like the same things — we like to sing, we like good music and we like food,” enthuses the ambassador, who also proudly shared that French cuisine has the sole distinction of being named as Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010.
French cuisine is being highlighted on March 21 as nine restaurants are going to offer fine French food as part of their menu.
Held for the third year in a row, Goût de France/Good France is a global campaign organized annually since 2015 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. It is an event inspired by the concept of Auguste Escoffier’s “Epicure’s Dinners” to serve the same menu on the same day in different cities all over the world.
The celebration aims to pay tribute to the excellence of French cuisine through the values of sharing a meal and respecting the environment, while also promoting France as a tourist destination.
Last year, chefs and restaurateurs from all over the world were screened and chosen by a committee of experts led by Alain Ducasse based on their proposed traditional French menu to be served in their respective establishments on March 21. This menu is composed of the following courses: a French aperitif, a cold starter, a hot starter, fish or shellfish, meat or poultry, a French cheese (or cheeseboard), a dessert, and French wines and digestifs. While this menu represents a traditional meal in France, the chefs were encouraged to integrate local ingredients and techniques in the preparation of the dishes.
Chefs Victor Magsaysay of CAV and Kevin Endaya of Lemuria return for the third edition.
Magsaysay says he will prepare the same menu as last year, but with a little twist in the dessert. Paris-based since 15 years ago and manning the kitchens of Ito Izakaya and Ito Chan, Magsaysay is known for using Philippine produce for his cooking.
This year, his menu at CAV includes Vivaneau (Maya Maya) mi-cuit en papillote de feuille de bananier and Mousse de cacao noir de Davao, mangue de Zambales, et jeune noix de coco.
‘’I’d like to present what French food is today, which is a lot more multicultural, with a lot of influences, whether it is fine dining or anything else. It’s not actually what you call fusion, but a natural progression of Paris being the capital of food, at the same time serving as a gateway to Africa, Asia. It reflects naturally on food,’’ declares the chef, who served and organized the dinner held at the ambassador’s residence for last year’s edition of Gout de France.
Chef Kevin Endaya, meanwhile, flexes his culinary muscles with the menu at the French-Mediterranean restaurant located in Quezon City.  The chef, who joined Lemuria in 2010 and who once worked in a Spanish restaurant then as a Japanese chef in another restaurant, also likes to make use of local produce in his cooking.
For their menu at Lemuria, his main involves fish, but he says it will depend on the catch of the day. He will pair it with Florentine sauce and top it with virgin coconut oil hollandaise. For dessert, he is serving calamansi tarte sabajone with tropical fruit compote. This menu costs P1,850 per person.
Another highlight of Gout de France is the participation of two schools: Restaurant 101 of Enderun Colleges and Vatel Restaurant Manila of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
Vatel Restaurant, under the man of chef Pierre Cornelis, have prepared an exquisite menu to be served in their restaurant located at the top deck of Hotel Benilde in Manila. The menu includes Braised Lamb Shank with Apricot (served with mashed sweet potatoes, zucchini fritters and garlic and rosemary jus) or Roast Mahi-Mahi fillet with tian of vegetables and crab bisque (served with crablets and “Boulanger potatoes”). And for dessert, it is Ginger and turmeric Infused “Molten Chocolate Cake” (with mango and Honey Coulis). This menu is priced at P1,200 nett per person.
Chef Cornelis is also in charge of the dinner at the Ambassador’s residence on March 21.
Vegans and other variations of veganism can head to Corner Tree Cafe. Owner Chiqui Mabanta has been serving good food with less guilt at her restaurant in Bel-Air, Makati. At P900 per person, her menu includes Lentil Walnut Pate on whole wheat baguette toasts or Pechay (Chard) Veloute Soup, Spinach & Mushroom Quiche with Gruyère Cheese (served with a small salad) and Dark Chocolate mousse with toasted almonds or Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice cream.
Other participating chefs and restaurants are Jacq Tan of Apéro and Duck and Buvette; Michael Schauss of Novotel Manila’s Gourmet Bar; Chris Bautista of La Crêperie; Nicolas Cegretin of Raffles Makati’s Mirèio; and Justin Baradas of Enderun College’s Restaurant 101.
Gout de France is among the highlights for the celebration of the 70th year of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and France.
Another anticipated event is the first-ever Bon Appetit, a French Filipino market, which the ambassador likens to the Salcedo weekend market. It will be held in September.
It is being organized in partnership with the Department of Agriculture.

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