Goût de France / Good France (21 mars 2016) [fr]
"Just a few words to tell you how happy I am to welcome you all at the French residence for this special evening. You are from the worlds of politics, business, diplomacy, media, culture and cuisine. Mostly Swedes, a few French and my dear colleagues from Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.
I especially want to thank Minister Åsa Romsom for being with us tonight. France and Sweden have been working closely last year to address climate change. You played an important role during COP21, Minister, as facilitator for adaptation issues. The Paris agreement has raised a lot of hope that we must now translate into action and we know that Sweden will remain a leader in this regard.
Thank you also to Mona Sahlin, for your cooperation with France in our joint fight against extremism and radicalization.
I want to mention the presence of Mats Ek and Ana Laguna. Mats Ek had a farewell ballet in Paris last January “From black to blue”, and it was a great honor for us.
Since I cannot unfortunately acknowledge each of you, I shall come back to tonight’s event and stress that, beyond the pleasure of good food, preparing high-quality, healthy, environmentally responsible cuisine with fresh, seasonal, and locally produced ingredients is a key part of France’s identity. With this Good France event, we wanted tonight to be “une fête”, as we say in French, a celebration and a sharing of what is beautiful and good.
This is so deeply rooted in our culture that we proposed “The Gastronomic Meal of the French” to be inscribed on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at UNESCO. Our proposal was accepted in 2010 because we could show that a gastronomic meal, or even a family meal, à la française, is about food and socialization. You talk and you eat; you talk about what you eat and what you eat inspires you to more conversation, to more interaction with the other guests.
The stakes are also economic. If you ask foreigners about their perception of France or why they want to visit our country, it is obvious that the famous “art de vivre à la française”, plays an important role in their choice. Each year, more than 80 million people come and visit France, being the source of more than 2 million permanent jobs. They come because of our historical heritage, our landscapes, castles and museums but surveys show that more than a third of the visitors come firstly for wine and gastronomy.
The idea of tonight’s event can be traced back to Auguste Escoffier, the famous chef of the beginning of the 20th century, who launched in 1912 what he called the “Dîners d’Épicure” (Epicurean Dinners): the same menu, the same day, in several cities across the world, targeting as many diners as possible. In 2015, Alain Ducasse resurrected the idea with the support of the French Ministry of foreign affairs and invited chefs from all over the world to serve simultaneously in their restaurants a typical French diner. The first edition was a success and tonight, for the second consecutive year, Goût de France / Good France celebrates French gastronomy worldwide. Hundreds of chefs on all five continents are participating.
Among them, 16 restaurants across Sweden. It’s a number I am really proud of, if you compare it to the population. And this is the sign that French gastronomy has an excellent image among the Swedes.
Finally, all my colleagues across the world, like myself, welcome guests at their residence for a similar dinner. Here, the chef is Sébastien Denié, and I am afraid he is feeling a lot of pressure, especially with the great chef Fredrik Eriksson in the room.
This operation is sponsored by many partners, at the global and the local levels. I will not name them except for three: Pernod Ricard, owner, among other famous brands, of champagne Mum and Absolut vodka; Michelin, which presented in Stockholm, a few weeks ago, its new red guide for Nordic cities; and Valrhona whose chocolate you will be able to enjoy tonight in the dessert.
French diplomats have always paid attention to gastronomy. As Talleyrand, probably our most famous Minister for foreign affairs, said two centuries ago: “Donnez moi de bons cuisiniers, je vous ferai de bons traités”, which might be roughly translated by “Give me the best cooks, I will get you the best deals”. I do not know if I am a good deal maker, but I hope I have a good chef and that you will enjoy this dinner.