Maeve, thank you for taking the time to talk with Inside Cuisine and congratulations on your next series. What inspired you to choose French cuisine as the next Food Safari?
It’s so lovely to be able to talk with you and your food loving readers… French Cuisine is any food journalist’s dream – such a highly developed cuisine that has evolved over hundreds of years and been refined and has hit delicious heights – the breadth across the many regions of France, the seasons, and food from haute cuisine to beautifully rustic – this is food that sings off the television and the people who create it are so passionate and so interesting. So to answer your question – it was a no brainer… we were just lucky enough to have a wealth of talent in Australia and the opportunity to film in France as well.
The series takes you on a journey to regional France with Chef Guillaume Brahimi, eating at high end restaurants and home cooking. How did you choose Guillaume as your guide?
Food Safari has always relied on “spirit guides” – the people born and brought up with cuisines who can open up those worlds – the food and the culture. We filmed Guillaume for the French episodes of Food Safari and he was a natural – confident and fun and a big hit with our viewers. We approached him with the idea and he was delighted to join us. We spent two weeks in France with him, filming every waking moment – from 3 or 4 am until 11pm most days – punishing but we had lots of great stories and amazing pictures to use for the show.
Did you have a preference from those travels, by region or cuisine? A favourite dish or recipe?
I can honestly say I loved it all – from dinner in a cosy bistro in St Germain, to spending time with a French family in the mountainous Ardeche region, to tasting a perfect vintage in the caves 10 metres underground in Champagne… it was a food lover’s dream… and to have access to some of the top names in French food – the chefs, the patissiers, the bakers, and to plunge into bustling markets – what joy!
I’m intrigued, and I’m sure my readers and your viewers are too, to learn a little of what goes into planning a trip of this type. What goes on behind the scenes?
We start with lots of reading to be across the many regions of France, the best French chefs and food producers in Australia and then a huge list of classic French dishes. We still have them all written on a board in the office and it’s interesting to see how many of them we managed to weave into the final series. We have a wonderful researcher Georgie Neal who spent many nights talking to key people in France … a huge amount of work… we had originally hoped to film in September to get some of the late summer, early autumn produce… instead we travelled in November so we had to adjust which dishes we were able to film and which regions would yield the best pictures.
And back in Australia we have such a history of passion for French cuisine. Who can we expect to see as guests on this next series? Is that giving too much away?
Not at all – we love our viewers to know who to expect to see from Australia and France.
Australia’s crème de la crème of French inspired chefs share their wisdom and recipes – including Shannon Bennett (Vue du Monde), Philippe Mouchel (pm24), Warren Turnbull (Assiette, District Dining), Mark Best (Marque), Jacques Reymond (Jacques Reymond’s Cuisine du Temps), Serge Dansereau (Bathers’ Pavilion), Chui Lee Luk (Claude’s), Tony Bilson (Bilson’s), Damien Pignolet (Bistro Moncur), Geraud Fabre (France Soir), Robert Molines (Bistro Molines), Gabriel Martin (Metropolis), Roméo Baudouin (Victor Churchill), Vincent Gadan (Patisse), Jean-Michel Raynaud (Baroque Patisserie) and Pierrick Boyer (Le Petit Gâteau).
On location in France, French Food Safari is a Who’s Who of France’s top French chefs and providores. We were so fortunate that Guillaume’s contacts were very useful in opening doors to the acclaimed Alain Ducasse, who has 27 restaurants across the world and an unprecedented 19 Michelin stars, the father of modern French cooking Paul Bocuse, the legendary chef Guy Savoy, who has restaurants in Paris, Las Vegas and Singapore, and the incomparable king of sweets Pierre Hermé and other fabulous patissieres.
We were also able to meet the elusive rock star of bread Jean-Luc Poujaran, affineur Laurent Dubois, and a truffle dog and The Pébeyre family (the kings of truffles of The Périgord), Chef Stéphane Reynaud, passionate baker Fabrice le Bourdat and Chef Dany Chouet opened her home in Perigord, a long way from Australia where she introduced a generation of food lovers to classic French cooking.
There are a lot of Australian restaurants that use a French classical base for technique but have embraced a more international approach to flavour, does the series look at our ‘new’ approach to French food?
Alain Ducasse put it well for us – he wants to return to highlighting the simple tastes of food – to let it speak for itself – we could see that same philosophy being put into practice by Shannon Bennett… we got a different take with Mark Best who does a wonderful spin on the classic duck a l’orange… I think the great thing about French cuisine is that it continues to evolve but you’re right – everyone stays true to those classic techniques – they are the building blocks and remain sacrosanct.
I often wonder when a show is being produced in one season, then broadcast in another, how that affects production of a food show. Are there challenges to overcome in this regard?
We filmed in France in November so we have snapshot of the autumn in France and all its great produce..but we filmed the Australian chefs and Guillaume’s recipes in summer which gave us beautiful plump raspberries to be used in a heavenly souffle, tomatoes for a simple salad… so we have covered more than one season… But we love that French Food Safari premieres in the depths of winter – we hope people snuggle in on Thursday nights at 7.30 ready for a feast… look out for that classic winter dish – Guillaume’s extraordinary cassoulet – you want to eat it off the screen!
The last series of Food Safari was about Italian cuisine. What are the major differences, if any, between the Italian and French Food Safaris?
Our Italian series was a wonderful warm kiss on both cheeks visiting many exceptional families keeping their traditions alive, using recipes that linked them back to the villages their parents and grandparents had come from… plus of course elegant restaurants, fine food producers and even adventures like hunting and wild mushroom collecting.
The French series spends a little more time in restaurants and with food producers… it really looks at techniques – such as what goes in to making puff pastry from scratch – did you know it took 3 days?
We see vanilla ice cream made with a king’s ransom of vanilla pods, we see great bread proving slowly and see the incredible results – it really spoils you for anything else ! It’s fascinating the degree of detail that goes into French food and you get a real sense of passion and skill – plus you still come away with recipes that you are able to recreate at home… All the recipes will be on the SBS food website – http://www.sbs.com.au/frenchfoodsafari
In the last couple of years, we sometimes read comments about the apparent decline of French cuisine. What do you think about this?
I’m trying to work out how the French would write a dismissive sound – humph! I dont think so!!
French cuisine is exquisite, exceptional and will continue to evolve and thrive. Viva Le France!