In 2014, then foreign minister Laurent Fabius, inspired by two great names of French diplomacy and French gastronomy, Philippe Faure, former ambassador in Japan and Alain Ducasse, worldwide multi starred chef, acknowledged that diplomacy and gastronomy had much to contribute to each other.
Diplomacy, at all times, has been more effective around a good meal accompanied with fine wines; that creates a more conducive atmosphere for tough discussions. The late President Mitterrand, who is remembered in Kathmandu for paying the first official visit of a French President to Nepal in 1983, is told to have taken utmost care of the tastes of his foe Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of UK. For their first meeting in Palais de l’Elysée, Paris, he knew the discussions would be tough and he instructed his staff to inquire about her likes and dislikes in order to serve her the best possible meal.
It helped, although their relationships remained competitive!
Ambassadors, at their level, know how much their hospitality can be at use when trying to get understanding from their local counterparts or for promoting a good economic deal.
On the other way round, diplomacy, mainly economic diplomacy has a lot to contribute to the success of French gastronomy and, moreover, of French hospitality. Two landmarks in that issue:
The classification of the gastronomic meal of the French in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, due to a swift diplomatic campaign run by the French government. I must admit it was not too difficult to get approval, and other countries were quick to emulate that very natural demarche.
More recently our foreign minister succeeded in adding to his portfolio the promotion of our trade interests, including tourism which is a very important industry for France: 7.4 % of GDP in 2014, number 1 with 83.8 million foreign tourists and number 3 in terms of revenues (43.2 billion euros). Obviously, a good meal is part of French attractivity.
That good position can and must be enhanced and the idea of Faure and Ducasse submitted to the Minister was simple: let’s show to the world the creativity and the universality of French gastronomy.
So for the second consecutive year, Goût de France / Good France will celebrate French gastronomy in various locations worldwide on 21st March 2016. Over 1500 chefs on all five continents are expected to join the event on the day of Spring. Dinners served simultaneously in participating restaurants will honour the merits of French cuisine, its capacity for innovation, and its values: sharing, enjoying, and respecting the principles of high-quality, environmentally responsible cuisine.
In Kathmandu, two restaurants subscribed last year, the Chimney and the Old House; this year, Residence de France will join for what will be the first dinner I host since I have been appointed in Kathmandu, after a successful gastronomic experience in Vientiane.
After the success of COP 21 in Paris, it has been recommended to promote good but simple food, relying as much as possible on local products which don’t have to travel all around the world and in the residence, we will be proud of serving French chees produced… in Nepal !
As for wine, well, there is still room for improvement in this part of the world and the only Champagne allowed to bear that name is produced in the region of Champagne, in France.
I am also pleased to mention the participation this time of a very skilled school of hospitality, Silver Mountain, which just signed a partnership agreement with a French school and which will help us for our dinner by providing students to help with the preparation and the service of the dinner.
So overall, I am very happy to celebrate this good opportunity of Nepalese-French cooperation and I hope many customers will flock to the participating restaurants, besides my private guests, on the 21st of March.
Yves Carmona is a French Ambassador to Nepal. Excepts of the speech delivered by him at the French Residence on March 16th on Goût de France.