surinenglish

The end of an era?

Have we finally shrugged off the idea that French cuisine dominates all others? There was a time when it was as respected as a religion, and France was the church where it was worshipped. Standards were upheld by the tyranny of the Michelin Guide, and whole families from other countries would make the annual pilgrimage to the mecca of haute cuisine. On their return to Lewes, Sausalito or Reykjavik they would remember the land where the chef was king and the fat little tyre man was the king-maker.

The dogma began to dissipate with the arrival of the Common Market. Cheaper airfares meant people could spread their itineraries over several countries, resulting in the 'discovery' of Italian cuisine and later Spanish and British. It soon became obvious that French cooking was not necessarily the best in the world, and that heavy sauces were not synonymous with good food.

Food critics like Anthony Bourdin and AA Gill (RIP both), rejected it in favour of new-era cooking. As long as 20 years ago, Bourdin recalled how he found himself in a simple chophouse near Smithfield market. Fergus Henderson's '200 years out of date' St John restaurant convinced him that even in Britain there was great food and great chefs who did not know what 'haute cuisine' was. He described Henderson as "a walking Buddha, a total rock star. He opened the doors for people to start questioning the conventional wisdom of the restaurant business, built up over hundreds of years. He absolutely changed the world."

The food Bourdin loved and talked about on his TV shows was an anathema to lovers of French cuisine: bizarre eastern dishes, spicy offal, exotic pasta... All the more unfair therefore that he chose France as his suicide destination - or perhaps it was deliberate.