American chefs boost fine dining in France

American chef Paris

Paris, once regarded as the gastronomical centre of the world, is looking to a cadre of young chefs from a country derided for its love of processed cheese -- gasp, the United States -- to help raise the bar.

French chefs have been opening fine restaurants stateside for years, but up until about a decade ago, the opposite would have been almost unthinkable. Now, bright young things from New York, Chicago and Seattle are behind some of the City of Light's most-hyped, hardest-to-get-into establishments.

Chefs such as Spring's Daniel Rose, or Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian, the pair behind the Hidden Kitchen and the new Verjus, are bringing a fresh energy to Paris' somewhat rigid fine dining scene and infusing it with American eclecticism.

"Food in France has taken a lot of hits over the years ... and they were pretty slow to acknowledge that it was going downhill", said pastry chef-turned-writer David Lebovitz, one of a handful of American food bloggers who cover the Paris food scene.

"I think we're now on the cusp of a real renaissance here" -- thanks in part, he said, to this nouvelle crop of American-born or trained restaurateurs.

It used to be that French-American culinary exchanges followed the model established by Julia Child in the era when: Americans came to France to study and then went home to impart their wisdom, or simply to cook. Child attended Paris' renowned Cordon Bleu culinary school in the 1940s, then returned to the US to educate her compatriots on the art of French cuisine.

The new generation of American chefs here has dispensed with the going home part.

Rose, the 30-something behind Spring -- Paris' hardest-to-come-by table, according to Le Figaro newspaper -- moved here as a 19-year-old college student primarily, he says, out of laziness.

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