November 1, 2014

Will BBQ And Brownies Kill Off French Cuisine?

Sweet and savory at Frenchie to Go.

Some of the negative comments on social media about the recent opening of a Texas BBQ joint in Paris by a Frenchman got me thinking...

As an expat in France who loves to cook and eat, appreciates everything food related and has been watching the culinary scene in France evolve over the last decade, I've noticed that in recent years there seem to be a lot of expats getting their knickers in a twist over foreigners (e.g. Anglophones who have moved to France and/or French people who have traveled to (mainly) Anglophone countries and have returned to France) opening restaurants or BBQ joints or coffee places that said expats deem to be not "French" enough and will, in their opinion, cause the eventual demise of French cuisine.

Strangely though, if it's a new sushi place, a Mexican restaurant, a Korean joint, an Indian resto or a falafel place, then that's perfectly fine. But put the words "hot dog," "BBQ" or "fish & chips" on the menu and watch the outrage unfold on Facebook and Twitter.
Ironically, the loudest and most resentful voices are usually from those who only spend a couple of months of every year in France (or Paris), from expats who only plan to stay here temporarily or by visitors who think that the French eat nothing but French food, 24/7.

"Soyez cool..."

Here's what I don't understand about this whole thing...
If a young chef from, say, Chicago, goes abroad and spends a few years cooking in France then returns to Chicago and opens up a new French restaurant and puts items on the menu that she or he was inspired by and learned to cook while living abroad, do you think that the French expats who live in Chicago run around moaning and complaining that said chef isn't offering dishes that are "American" enough? Or that the food they're putting on their menu will ultimately change Chicago's restaurant scene and its culinary traditions for the worse?
Of course they don't.

Paris Eats

Hot Dog Menu

Maybe you don't think that Chicago has a cuisine that warrants the same kind of attention as French cuisine? (If you're from Chicago and think it has the most sublime cuisine on the planet, please forgive me, I'm merely using it as an example here) 
So for argument's sake, I'll use New Orleans, because there's no denying that it is one of the most unique and amazing food cities in America, home to a long standing, richly layered culinary history.
I can tell you from experience that no Japanese, Spanish, Thai or French expat living there freaks out when a new Japanese, Spanish, Thai or French restaurant opens up.

Yeah, I know. French gastronomy is sacred. It's even registered with UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

But if the French are embracing these changes, then who are we étrangers to complain? Paris is a huge, multicultural city and a few new influences like barbecued brisket and donuts aren't going to kill off French cuisine.

Personally, I'm happy to know that I can pop over to Paris and enjoy a delicious French meal one night, a spicy burrito the next and some shrimp dumpling soup the day after. Just like I would be able to do in cities like Seattle, Brussels, London or Barcelona.

You know what they say, variety is the spice of life.
Now please pass the chips and salsa.

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Eileen said...

As a Texan I cannot possibly relate HOW EXCITED I am about this.

I don't see how foreign cuisine could possibly kill off French eating. Lots of different types of cuisine can interact to make wonderful things (e.g. foie gras sushi, or so I've been told). There's no reason to keep things so separate just out of fear!

Anonymous said...

The people who want Coq au Vin and French Onion Soup all year round are also the same people who think French people wear berets and striped tops.

The people who actually live in France should encourage a little diversity.

Ultimately, if the place is good, the customers will keep coming back and it'll survive. It will have earnt its right to that spot. If it's no good, it'll close after a year or so. :)

LaCanadienne said...

Are these the same people who say that Pigalle was better when it was the home to prostitutes and seedy bars?

I'm so excited to see all these 'anglo-saxon' restaurants open up. I can now get better fish and chips in Paris than I could when I lived in Vancouver, Canada. And even though I've never been to Texas, I'm psyched to finally try some of their famous BBQ beef.

It's not that I"m never going to eat Steack-Frites or Galette jambon fromage ever again, it's just so nice to have other casual options.

Nadege said...

Right on "La Canadienne". It is nice to have casual options.

Maggie said...

I enjoyed reading your post and I totally agree! X

Cate Lawrence said...

Really interesting, I can't imagine the opposition in other European countries...I'm an expat living in Germany and whenever a new place opens the locals flock. I was eating at an indian cafe and germans were coming in, really interested, asking lots of questions...

spacedlaw said...

Am all in favour but last time I was out walking about in Paris it seemed to me that every other joint was a burger joint. Weird if you think that the France I grew up in thought mince meat wasn't food fit for adults.
So weird.
Of course, this is just a craze.

Gina Miller said...

Interesting....I know a number of expats living in France (Texans, to be exact). When I ask them what they miss the most about the states their answer is either A) BBQ or B) Tex-Mex. And they lament the fact they can't find a good salsa.

I think this influx of other food types just adds to the diversity & options in this great city.

Anonymous said...

There are a plethora of below average French bistros in Paris these days, a lack of true regional cuisine from around the country and a lack of worldwide diversity of foods like no other city I have ever seen. While great French cuisine must be preserved, Paris can only be improved by the addition of more international choices, innovative fusion restaurants and an upgrade of regional cuisine (and better coffee shops too!) I do admit, I'd hate to see Paris (where I live now) become like Brooklyn (where I was born) a place ruled by fads and quick money with any real major identity.

Anonymous said...

There are a plethora of below average French bistros in Paris these days, a lack of true regional cuisine from around the country and a lack of worldwide diversity of foods like no other city I have ever seen. While great French cuisine must be preserved, Paris can only be improved by the addition of more international choices, innovative fusion restaurants and an upgrade of regional cuisine (and better coffee shops too!) I do admit, I'd hate to see Paris (where I live now) become like Brooklyn (where I was born) a place ruled by fads and quick money with any real major identity.

stuart itter said...

There can be no question that French food ways are being homogenized with popular things from other cultures. It has to impact food things that the French did and valued and be a loss. Happening every where. Worry that dogs will no longer be dogs way things are going.

Betty C. said...

Great post, and I agree with your analysis but I also kind of agree with SpacedLaw. So here is some news from La France Profonde: There are suddenly burgers and brownies all over the place even here in little old Rodez! So I think we are seeing a craze here, not just a general opening up to new cuisines. The presence of Anglo food in Rodez far outweighs other cuisines too. Personally, I could do with a lot more Thai, Mexican and Indian, just to name a few, and fewer burger options -- even though I do indulge in the latter!

Heather Stimmler-Hall said...

Great article, Jennifer. It does seem like we're just biased against food from the US. No one ever seems to complain about the countless cheap Asian food joints on almost every street in Paris (sweet and sour pork has not killed off the baguette sandwich quite yet). ;-)

Jennifer Greco said...

I hope you enjoy it. I'm not a connoisseur, but I enjoyed it. Good smoky flavor and good sauce. And Thomas is a great guy!


Jennifer Greco said...

Not sure, but that wouldn't surprise me. :)
Yes, it is nice to have options!


Jennifer Greco said...


It is interesting, isn't it.
Though it's usually not the French people who complain, but the expats/visitors who have certain ideas about what France should be, and when their expectations don't measure up, they aren't happy.

Jennifer Greco said...

The burger thing has gotten out of control, I agree. Now they are just boring!

When people ask me that question my answer is always Mexican food. There are a couple of good places in Paris now, thankfully!

Jennifer Greco said...

I would hate to see Paris become like Brooklyn too, but it would take a lot for that to happen!
The great coffee places are a nice change. :)

The tradition of regional French food is still very strong. Yes, there are influences from other countries (pizza joints can be found in every corner of France!), but they will never replace the strong ties that the French have to their cuisine. That might not be as apparent in Paris, but head out into la France Profonde and it is very noticeable.

Jennifer Greco said...

I agree that the anglo influence is stronger than say, Mexican or Thai when one heads out into the smaller towns, though pizza, kabab and Vietnamese (calling themselves Chinese) places are pretty easy to come across in most France towns.
The little bakery in Olonzac started making brownies a few years ago...they were horrible and dry! And I am so over burgers. (yawn)

No, I never see anyone complaining about those places either. Though they are often so bad, maybe people should complain about them! :)

La Torontoise said...

I enjoyed so much reading this post!
Have a great week!

Chris Knight said...

I'm an expat living in Paris who runs a brownie website and writes a brownie newsletter at, so I was just wondering what the connection to brownies was in this post. I don't see any mention of brownies, except in the headline. I do enjoy reading your blog, though. Keep up the good work. Regards, Chris Knight

Jennifer Greco said...

La Torontoise
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

I just used brownies as an example of Anglo food, that's all. Over the last few years it seems that anything related to US/British/Australian food or coffee culture has been embraced by the French and grumbled about by the expats.
Eh voilà. :)

Ken Broadhurst said...

No burgers or brownies in Saint-Aignan at this point, at least not that I've noticed. Mais Paris, c'est aussi la France...!

Anonymous said...


What's wrong wit Brooklyn? The pizza is 10 times better than Paris.

Jennifer Greco said...

No burgers there? They seem to have invaded every corner of l'Hexagone! :)

I agree, the pizza is 10 times better in Brooklyn.
I was given a Brooklyn pizza tour many years was heaven!

rose | rockrosewine said...

I do think that Paris is becoming very "brooklynized" as restaurant owners hurry to jump on the latest food fad. Anglo-Saxon and American foods are very "in" right now: hot dogs, cupcakes, American style brunch, BBQ, fish & chips, burgers, burgers and more burgers...
While I have nothing against these foods, I do object to a certain copy cat "sameness" we're seeing on the Paris food scene. There are restaurants that do American food well, and some that just seem to be doing it because it's easy and trendy.(Comment from a US ex-pat who has lived in France for almost 20 years :-)

Maria del mar said...

After six years in Paris, I am glad that there are some options if I get a craving for something International. French cuisine is still the main attraction for me. But once in a while I need a good Guacamole or a good Samosa. Vive la diversité!

Jennifer Greco said...

The Brooklyn style decor has become so overdone! And TOO many burgers on menus, most of which aren't even good.
I know what you mean about the "sameness."

Me too!