Gastronomy is synonymous with France - Foreign Minister

Tourism/presentation of the Michelin Guide France 2015 – Speeches by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

Paris, 2 February 2015


Presenting the Michelin Guide at the Quai d’Orsay is a first. It’s true that the Quai d’Orsay is more accustomed to hosting star diplomats and generals than Michelin-starred chefs, but because you suggested it to me I gladly agreed. Why? Firstly because tourism promotion and foreign trade are now within the Quai d’Orsay’s remit; this wasn’t previously the case. I wanted it to be, and now it is.

As you’ve emphasized, gastronomy is an extraordinary ambassador for developing tourism and foreign trade. The Michelin Guide is the global reference point in this field. So it’s a very good idea. I’ll go further and say French gastronomy is synonymous with France.

When the world’s citizens are asked what the land of gastronomy is, France is quoted above all others, and I think that’s very important for our image. Excellence and creativity are linked to French gastronomy and Michelin-starred chefs. (…)

My colleagues are skilled at keeping what you might call military secrets, but I must say that, despite those skills, they’ve been unable to find out which chefs would be receiving distinctions today. That proves how effective the Michelin Guide is.
Although I don’t know the people receiving the awards, I congratulate them now, because they are and will continue to be tremendous ambassadors for France.

Thank you for being here this evening. (…)

There is, of course, traditional diplomacy, but there are also other areas I asked the President and the Prime Minister to put under the responsibility of this Ministry, namely foreign trade and tourism promotion, because France is all those things combined. Not only do I not regret it, I’m also extremely happy about it. I spend time on this aspect – gastronomy and promoting tourism – not because I don’t have enough work elsewhere: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation in Ukraine, what’s happening in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere… All those things – which, sadly, are generally tragic – would be enough to occupy my time, but France isn’t simply about traditional diplomacy: France’s image is a combination of things.

When you talk to foreign friends about what France is, when you ask them what France is, there are a number of ideas, images, names and facts that immediately come to mind. It’s true that France is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. It’s true that France is a great military power, and that’s very useful when you have to combat terrorism. It’s true that France has a powerful economy which, despite our difficulties, is still the world’s fifth-largest. It’s true that we have a great culture, a remarkable history, with great figures, but one of the factors contributing to France’s prestige and its very identity is its gastronomy. (…)

French gastronomy is synonymous with France. (…) Occasionally we’re challenged over it – I get the impression that a number of criticisms levelled at our gastronomy consist of a sort of culinary French-bashing. We’re told it used to be good, but that perhaps, on a few points, we’ve fallen behind. I’m no theorist, I’m a practitioner, I like eating and drinking well and I see creativity – this is the word which comes to mind – which indisputably exists in this sphere. (…)

We aren’t the largest country in the world, but we are an extraordinarily creative country. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s all this which is represented this evening through you.

So thank you, thank you for what you’ve said about French diplomacy; I’ll pass it on. I’d like to recall, in an English accent, those fine words from Winston Churchill, who was extremely witty and who, wanting to rally his soldiers during the Second World War, told them: “Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s champagne!”. I think we can learn from that.

This place is a home from home for you, a place devoted to giving its guests a warm welcome. When I meet heads of state, heads of government and foreign ministers, I want to show them that French gastronomy’s reputation is well deserved.

Quite obviously, as each and every one of us is committed to jobs and the economy, let’s remember that the sector you represent is one of the most creative, it creates jobs in France and there’s scope for considerably more.

For all these reasons, you will always find me at your side in defending and promoting what you all represent so well: French gastronomy.

Thank you.

Published on 09/02/2015

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