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Generation.C Manifesto: Marseilles, 2005


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Generation.C Manifesto: Marseilles, 2005

Recently, some of the group of chefs, known as “Generation C,” published a “Manifesto” in the December issue (# 22) of Omnivore, the monthly publication that is dedicated to advancing French cuisine. Whether this will be as important as the Slow Food Manifesto and movement, only time will tell; there are various such statements made in France every few years, most of which die a silent death. In any case, this is a summary/translation of the Manifesto, which for various copyright/etc reasons, I’ve vastly reduced from its 749 original words to 1/7th that.

Generation.C represents a group of young but mature chefs who are comfortable with their culture’s traditions and cooking but are open to new directions. They are more than a group or association; they represent a new spirit and have common values. The members of this group want to train future members in a cooperative rather than competitive environment and ascribe to the following:

1. To open, share and communicate

- with all in the field at whatever level or wherever they work, without mean-spiritedness, to create different food, exchange techniques, etc

- to elevate our profession, promote a contemporary and active image and entice the young into our restaurants

- to interact with chefs/cuisines of all countries to promote a two-way exchange of new ideas without dumbing down cuisine to a globalized practice,

2. To share and exchange information with our current collaborators as well pass on our passion and knowledge to those who are still learning; for example, by forming a bridge between practicing chefs and training programs, requiring each of us to participate personally in cooking schools through the formation of a training unit within Generation.C,

Conclusion: Without second-guessing or holding preconceived ideas and while not stifling individual creativity, we are dedicated to acting collectively to advance our field towards a livelier future.

Generation.C

If I’ve missed any important issues, I apologize, and hope that those representing “Generation C,” and I know of at least one person who is a dedicated eGullet member, will chime in.

John Talbott

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John, who are some of these chefs and do they seem to share a particular style?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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John, who are some of these chefs and do they seem to share a particular style?

Well, from reading Omnivore, viewing the photos and between the lines (there's never been a list of them published that I know of) the established guys are folks such as Ducasse, Choukroun, the Pourcels, Ledeuil, Zuddas and Mikula. Who was in Marseilles and drafted it? I don't know.

As for style; none, there's no dogma that I can discern.

Again, from what I get talking to food critics, reading and supposing; the thrust is to break away from Generation A (Escoffier, butter, cream); Generation B (nouvelle & minceur) to a new level which is receptive to foreign influences (Catalunia, Asia, Africa, techniques, spices, ingredients, and horrors, even the Chino brothers, the US West Coast and Alice Waters). Evidence - the recent trip of 5 or 6 of them to Japan this fall and Australia currently. At least one of their fellow travellers has even gone to Chicago recently.

But John, now that Omnivore has some of their stuff online (not the 80E/yr the hard copy costs) - go look.

Happy New Year All,

Vivent les Generations C-Z

John

John Talbott

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John, Thank you for the information (as always) and the link. This provides additional incentive to improve my French (in hiatus since my visit to paris). It seems to me that this movement is a necessary one for France to hope to continue its pre-eminence in the food arts. It is not acceptable for the culinary firmament there to stick its collective head in the sand and rest on past glories when much of the rest of the world has caught up in technique and even surpassed it in terms of creativity. Bon chance to them. I like the concept and what this is likely to mean to our collective palates.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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John, Thank you for the information (as always) and the link. This provides additional incentive to improve my French (in hiatus since my visit to paris). It seems to me that this movement is a necessary one for France to hope to continue its pre-eminence in the food arts. It is not acceptable for the culinary firmament there to stick its collective head in the sand and rest on past glories when much of the rest of the world has caught up in technique and even surpassed it in terms of creativity. Bon chance to them. I like the concept and what this is likely to mean to our collective palates.

John, far be it for me to criticize my hosts here, but I do think that while most folk did not read reports or the original New York Times article about Spanish cuisine surpassing French cooking or the news of the Fat Duck being rated the best resto in the world - the message has been received.

John Talbott

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John,

I had come across this description of Michel Guerard and the 70's gang just a few days ago- in the sous-vide thread. Reading the manifesto of the Generation C made my ears ring. Sound familiar?

"The revolution in cooking came from within the Michelin-starred restaurants.... ...An important characteristic of the movement was friendship. Although French chefs are usually individualistic, even selfish, these young chefs were always in contact, telling one another of their discoveries, discussing their problems, and so on. Today, they still do it, although they themselves have become the symbols of a new tradition."

This is from this site and refered to Guerard, Bocuse, Sendersen, etc...

Another take on the same historic overview: http://www.gayot.com/restaurants/features/...llecuisine.html

I also agree with Robert's comment as well (the hand that feeds them) and personally take on the role to communicate with my friend/chefs my kudos as well as my expectations. I think it was in Michael Sander's book, "from here you can't see Paris" that he describes the best meal you'll ever have in France is a conspiracy between the Chef, the waiter and you...the worst, a conspiracy against you."

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I think it was in Michael Sander's book, "from here you can't see Paris" that he describes the best meal you'll ever have in France is a conspiracy between the Chef, the waiter and you...the worst, a conspiracy against you."

That's wonderful Kate and your post reminds those of us who are Paris-centricly-minded that there are great places out there, in Gascony and elsewhere, from which you cannot see Paris.

John Talbott

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I haven't had the chance to write about the three contemporary-cuisine meals I had in Italy recently at Villa Crespi, Cracco-Peck and Caffe Groppi. But what I took away from them was that no one country necessarily has a monopoly or part of an oligopoly on the so-called avant-garde. That a group of young chefs in France wants to expand its creative boundaries outside of France makes their purpose somewhat diluted. I, for one, would still eat this kind of cuisine in a country where the overall model of dining is more conducive to it, such as Spain and Italy. The problem that these French chefs have has to do with parsimony and taking short cuts than with some kind of loss of supremacy in the kitchen.

As for the nouvelle cuisine chefs, they did at the outset share ideas and camoraderie, but this pretty much vanished by the end of the 1970s, or thereabouts.

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John, Thank you for the information (as always) and the link. This provides additional incentive to improve my French (in hiatus since my visit to paris). It seems to me that this movement is a necessary one for France to hope to continue its pre-eminence in the food arts. It is not acceptable for the culinary firmament there to stick its collective head in the sand and rest on past glories when much of the rest of the world has caught up in technique and even surpassed it in terms of creativity. Bon chance to them. I like the concept and what this is likely to mean to our collective palates.

Amen.

But what surprises me a bit is that, in France, there needs to be a manifesto for that sort of thing. Everywhere else, people just cook and search, and that's the way cuisine evolves. Why another tract?

In fact, deep down, it's not that surprising. In France we like movements and written orders for them, identifying "generations" before they're born, etc. It makes us feel like we're alive and kicking and that things are moving (whether they are or not).

But what prevents chefs from applying these sane principles to their work without banging a drum? France has supposedly a problem with opening up to other culinary cultures. Is that really true? Yes, to some extent. Well, there are some chefs who don't have that problem indeed. But why should they need to create some sort of mental pressure group for that?

All the more since some of the names I read here — Pourcels, Mikula, Ledeuil, Ducasse — are not particulary remarkable for "opening up" French haute cuisine to other culinary cultures, though at first they may pretend to do so. Their cuisine remains rigidly chef-like in the Frenchest manner, and it is not a bit of lemongrass here and there that will "open it up". Indeed I can't see much of a revolution there.

I believe the drum-banging is more a statement made to other professionals (we're "in" and you're not) than a manifesto directed towards cooking in general. Whether it means to create movement in the profession or to define a different style (which it isn't doing yet, but the question may rise at some point), this manifesto needs to be a bit more articulate, detailed and informative, and to show somewhat clearer intentions and purpose, in order to be effective and forceful. So far what I see is more like banging into open doors. Interact with chefs of other countries? Haven't French chefs been doing that for decades?

However, I haven't read the manifesto in French and haven't seen the details, and I'm a bit far away from home now, so please allow me to change my opinion in the future when I've been confronted to the real thing.

What I do like, on the other hand, it the part about "cooperative and non competitive environment". Wow, now that's a program! That is, indeed, what French cuisine needs badly. But it's a long way to go.

I also like the mention of professional training. Now there's a real problem indeed. Recent training programs for écoles hôtelières now include "mise en température" of vacuum-packed foods, reheating and serving ready-made produce, i.e. industrial sauces, peeled vegetables, fonds, aromas, frozen dishes. That's one thing. Another thing is that some basic cooking skills like trussing poultry, cleaning mussels, binding sauces, turning artichokes, steaming foods, paring a leg of lamb, etc., are no longer required in the CAP programs.

Now I think that's where the need of a manifesto is the most acute, not on the subject of being so cool through using lemongrass or chit-chatting with Hong Kong chefs.

Edit : Happy New Year to all!

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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But what surprises me a bit is that, in France, there needs to be a manifesto for that sort of thing. Everywhere else, people just cook and search, and that's the way cuisine evolves. Why another tract?

What I do like, on the other hand, it the part about "cooperative and non competitive environment". Wow, now that's a program! That is, indeed, what French cuisine needs badly. But it's a long way to go.

I also like the mention of professional training. Now there's a real problem indeed.

Interesting points, Petit, especially about training.

And of course, who knows whether this "Manifesto" is but one more in a long list of good-intentioned statements or will do something substantive; the old rubber hitting the road problem. While I don't want to be too grandiose, my recollection is that the "Slow Food" movement and manifesto started off amid much skepticism too and if not earth-shaking today, has had a significant impact.

And to slide off the topic a bit farther, the French wine industry, now spending oddles of energy bemoaning over-production, low prices, unfair competition from South of the equator, insufficient government support, antique labels and inadequate marketing, might look at what the Italian wine industry did to modernize, or closer to home, Cahors, which in 30 years went from a specialized beverage closer to crankcase oil to a sophistocated wine.

John Talbott

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Luc Dubanchet, former editor of GaultMillau, and Laurent Seminel, former art director, seem to be the originators of Omnivore and of the "Generation C" idea. They have published the first guide dedicated to "Jeune cuisine", covering 150 restaurants in France. Sample comment:

Pourquoi pas de notes ? Parce que la critique et la cuisine doivent enfin sortir du système scolaire infantilisant dans lequel elles se sont cloîtrées. Comment comparer sur une même échelle de notation (ou de symboles) un formidable bistrot novateur et la magnificence d’un palace ?

That means, roughly : Why don't we give out stars or numerical ratings in our guide? Because both cuisine and culinary criticism need, at long last, to abandon the infantilising schoolroom system in which they have been imprisoned. How can one compare, on the same grading scale, a wonderfully innovative bistrot against a magnificent "palace"?

Click here for a list of the restaurants of the "Jeune cuisine" chefs. It isn't clear how young these chefs are; at one point the site says, « jeune » n’étant pas une question d’âge mais d’état d’esprit -- i.e. that youth is not a matter of age but of attitude. On the other hand, the "Prix du Jeune créateur" competition they will be holding during their food festival in February is open only to cooks who have achieved the rank of chef patron (owner), sous-chef or chef de partie and are younger than 31 years old.

The whole idea of "Generation C" reminds me somewhat of Les Six, the group of "avant garde" (for the 1920s) composers who assembled around Erik Satie.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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An impressive list. Didn't see Ducasse's name, perhaps because he couldn't be pigeon-holed into one location. There were a number of venerable names as well.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The whole idea of "Generation C" reminds me somewhat of Les Six, the group of "avant garde" (for the 1920s) composers who assembled around Erik Satie.

This comparison is not very flattering for Le Groupe des Six. Les Six are still remembered, as a group and individually, some eighty years later. They were avant-garde then and in some ways may still be understood as such (arguably, and stylistically speaking, the avant-gardes of the 20's remain unequalled, and Marcel Duchamp's bottle case unsurpassed; Satie hasn't aged in any way, etc.).

Here, we only have a group of professional chefs who congregate over a fairly hazy concept, and I have yet to be shown in what way they could be described as "avant-garde". And in what way they could be, let alone geniuses, at least artists, to deserve such a comparison.

Also, although some of these chefs are fairly innovative, none of them is innovative enough to start a movement like Le Groupe des Six. To be fair, that is definitely not their point and they are not pretending to do so. They do not put a stress on cooking as much as they do on a certain attitude towards cooking, towards the world, towards training. I only wish these last points were more developed since they're what chefs need to be concerned about these days. Not about cooking styles: the styles are not defined enough, at the moment, for any revolution to take place.

Also, as long as French cuisine remains trapped in chef dialectics, I believe there won't be any significant change. But I won't linger on that.

To John Talbott: yes, of course, one thinks of Slow Food. However, Slow Food started on a genuine concern for the quality of food, the integrity of ingredients, and preserving ways of life. Its objectives were clear and defined and have remained so. This is not the case for "Génération C" which, as I said, suffers from a lack of focus. But again, I have to see the original manifesto in order to judge it fairly. Without reading a crystal ball, it is easy to realize that the future of a movement much depends on how clearly it has defined its field of action right from the start.

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Also, as long as French cuisine remains trapped in chef dialectics, I believe there won't be any significant change. But I won't linger on that.

Please do linger. What do you mean by "chef dialectics"?

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Slow Food started on a genuine concern for the quality of food, the integrity of ingredients, and preserving ways of life. Its objectives were clear and defined and have remained so.

Even more to the point, Carlo Petrini was a campaigning radical journalist with the shrewd good sense to mask his politics behind his gourmet sensibilities.

John Whiting, London

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That means, roughly : Why don't we give out stars or numerical ratings in our guide?  Because both cuisine and culinary criticism need, at long last, to abandon the infantilising schoolroom system in which they have been imprisoned.  How can one compare, on the same grading scale, a wonderfully innovative bistrot against a magnificent "palace"?
Hear! Hear! I heartily dislike hierarchical ratings--of anything. I'm convinced that, in pandering to those who want their decisions made for them in a hurry, the text is inevitably corrupted. Can you imagine an eloquent appreciation of a work of art--or a lover--concluding with "9.5 out of 10"? So what happened to the other .5?

John Whiting, London

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It's in french, of course, but here's generation.C's blog.

http://generation.c.over-blog.com

Thanks, Le Zouave!

Everybody should see that blog. There are pictures of a chef in a g-string diving into a swimming-pool. :biggrin:

So there's no reason to be surprised there's a manifesto in the first place. The French not only love manifestos, but take them with a grain of salt. Any manifesto is a good excuse for a party. On the one hand, I'm quite suspicious that it's all an attempt at publicity to counteract the attention being given to chefs outside France and particularly in Spain. On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of eating in a restaurant where the chef understands the importance of having a good time over rhetoric. :biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Expatica has an article entitled “Hot and bothered in the French kitchen” that I believe fits in this discussion. I’ll largely paraphrase two quotes from a conference on “New Culinary Trends” in Tours in December by Pierre Combris and Luc Dubanchet to avoid copyright issues: the former says that food consumption has been stable in Europe for 10-15 years, thus “anything new replaces” something in existence; the latter, that in French cooking “tradition and creation” are “in opposition.”

John Talbott

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