French Restaurant Menus

By Olivia Sorrel-Dejerine Paris

The summer rush to France - a magnet for more foreign tourists than any other country - is about to begin. And this year travellers may spot a new logo on menus, designed to flag up when food has been home-made. But how exactly is "home-made" defined?

The bad news is that - just like anywhere else in the developed world - many French restaurants just reheat pre-prepared food, rather than cooking it from scratch.

French consumers estimated, in a poll last October, that barely half of restaurant meals were home-made, while the Union of Hotel Skills and Industries suggests that 85% of restaurants secretly make use of frozen or vacuum-packed food.

In the country of Parmentier, Escoffier, and Paul Bocuse, to many people this just doesn't seem right, so a law designed to uphold French culinary traditions was passed earlier this year, and came into force this week.

Now any restaurant that serves a home-made dish can indicate it on the menu with a new logo - in the shape of a saucepan with a roof-like lid. From next January it will be compulsory for all menus to carry the logo - so if you don't see it, the food is not fait maison.

Bread"We chose to represent 'home-made' with a logo so that foreign tourists could understand it, " says a government spokeswoman.

"French gastronomy represents 13.5% of foreign tourists' expenses and it's undeniable that if we add value to the quality of our restaurants, it will have an impact on tourism."

Even professional chefs in smart restaurants have been cutting corners, it seems.

They can buy steak tartare that has been chopped irregularly to make it look as if it was just hand-prepared in the kitchen, and any number of faux home-made tarts and pies.

"It's true that it is much easier to buy ready-made piecrust or ready-made veal stock. You don't have to come in early or to stay during the afternoon, " says Pierre Negrevergne, Maître Restaurateur at La Terrasse Mirabeau in Paris, who only cooks with fresh seasonal products from local producers.

"Anyone can buy a ready-made pate, cut it, present it with some salad and only few people will notice it is industrial."

Apple pies

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Q&A

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Where is a French restaurant with French menus in Orange county California?

Two French restaurants, with French menus include: Marche Moderne at address: 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, (714) 434-7900 and Brasserie Pascal at 327 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660, (949) 640-2700.