Written by Steve McAnon, CNN
This story was first published in January 2012. It has been updated with current news.
Julien suggests to Théophile that the mélange of chocolate and milk, with sour, salty and creamy dark sauces and the fun, fruity-substitute for tomato bread makes the French gourmet's craze seem more Gallic.
"In France, as opposed to the U.S., where people are eating salads instead of French fries, we don't have that kind of food scene at all, you know," says Julien.
Steven believes, despite the Francophonic fervor, that the French taste buds are in fact changing. Instead of the first spoonful of spaghetti and meatballs giving them a grainy headache, today's culinary-literate Parisian will admit that, once on the molecular treadmill, they find it much more amusing to consume more of something than less of it, he says.
Steven is not wrong. In the mind of Cavu's owner, Stephen Pilecki, "good" food is now part of the French national ethos.
Two years ago, Pilecki's non-believing waiter in the historic Opera House went on strike after turning up to serve chicken dressed in pink ganache. The protest--fueled by anti-nudity laws and a revolting cow's tail--stoked the imagination of gastronomes everywhere.
The backlash began even before the fall of communism and has been largely justified, says Chef Mauro Colagreco, whose string of restaurants from London to Sydney has earned him an Order of Australia in the past decade.
This does not mean, he says, that everyone with "a bistro coat and a fan's love of moules frites is a genius. I would prefer to compare the French palate to a good carpenter making solid blocks of wood, rather than saying this is a reason to be proud. The French are happy to recognize that the chefs that fit what I like to call the flavors of old Champagne Bordeaux, and which are inspired by the classic steak au poivre of France, are doing it better than us."
So what is all the fuss about? If we're going by Cavu and Pilecki, it seems there is one thing in particular: simple, rustic French cooking with old, proven techniques.
The challenge for chefs and restaurateurs today is to recreate the underlying pleasure of the classic dishes without abandoning their elegance or delicacy. They must, however, raise it to another level. It seems, Steven argues, that when good food is made with an eye to presentation and the angle of the plate, food looks fresher and more delicious.
"If you can write the familiar, and make it slightly more complicated, it loses a little bit of its heart and soul," he explains.