French gastronomy is famous for its excellence all around the world. So much so that UNESCO recognizes it as an intangible heritage of humanity. On September 26th, 2014, the French Minister of Agriculture Stephane Le Foll teamed up with fellow ministers to show their support for the fourth annual “Fête de la Gastronomie,” or French Gastronomy Festival.
The theme of this year’s event was “The love of gestures and know-how,” aimed at highlighting the importance of culinary traditions. The festival took place over three days throughout France and overseas, uniting chefs, consumers and everyone in between in a dual effort to showcase the breadth of French gastronomy and to raise awareness about the importance of the industry as a collective whole. This far-reaching celebration of all things edible attracted the masses to over 9,000 events, activities, conferences and workshops, proving in its fourth year that the “Fête de la Gastronomie” is a highly successful means of cultural celebration and education.
Defined as a “national event that brings together chefs, businesses, artisans, associated sectors and local communities,” the French Gastronomy Festival has four main objectives:
- To make French gastronomy accessible to people of all socio-economic backgrounds, from children to the elderly.
- To promote the excellence of the French know-how and to facilitate new opportunities for professionals and amateurs alike.
- To highlight the richness and quality of the many products that make up French gastronomy and to honor the work and investments of industry professionals.
- To establish the framework for gastronomic tourism in the country.
In order to fully understand the importance of gastronomy for France, one must take both the cultural and economic factors into consideration. The restaurant industry in France brings in an estimated 61.8 billion euros (apprx $78 billion) in annual revenue and is responsible for employing just shy of 800,000 people, ranking it 5th in overall job provision. Another 475,000 professionals comprise the rest of the food industry in France and muster up more than 145 billion (apprx $183 billion) euros over a year. But it doesn’t need to be edible to sell; nearly two billion dollars in revenue comes from table décor and culinary art! Finally, 13.5% of national gastronomic revenue in France originates from outside of the country. It should come as no surprise that France is the number one agricultural producer in the European Union and number three in the world.
Now that you understand the objectives and motives of the “Fête de la Gastronomie,” you might be wondering how you can participate. Those in France from September 26th to the 28th had an endless choice of activities including community picnics, cooking workshops in local restaurants, tours of artisan kitchens and laboratories, local and “terroir” product tastings etc… But for those who weren’t able to make it to France, activities of varying scales were also offered around the United States organized by French consulates, the Alliance française and other organizations. Be on the lookout next year for ways to learn about and enjoy the celebrated French gastronomy at a location near you!