World in My Kitchen: Bocuse Chez McDonald's


The World in My Kitchen, by Colette Rossant, cover by James Rossant French-born food writer Colette Rossant had nearly two decades to acclimatize to New York and American food before the world's most famous chef, Paul Bocuse, voyaged to the New World.

Bocuse had come to promote one of his cookbooks, which she had translated, but the morning of the book launch, things turned out differently than planned, as recounted in the following excerpt from her newly published third food memoir, The World in My Kitchen: The Adventures of a (Mostly) French Woman in America (Atria 2006):
On the day of the publication, Paul was to prepare a dinner at Lutece for the press. We were to meet for the first time in twenty-five years at 7:30 A.M. in front of Balducci's food store on Sixth Avenue to shop for the dinner. Paul had brough many t hings from France, but we needed meat, vegetables, and fruit…

Unfortunately, Balducci's had forgotten our appointment, and the store was not yet open...

"Colette, I need breakfast; where shall we go?" I looked around. Nothing was open except McDonald's. I tried to explain that McDonald's, which had not as yet invaded France, was a fast-food chain, and there wasn't much he would like.

detail of photo of McDonald's, from Inkycircus.com

"Let's go there; it is fine," and so to McDonald's we went, followed by the press.

As we sat down, I explained to Paul what was on the menu. "you can have a muffin with egg and cheese, or ham."

" 'Muffin' ? Qu'est-ce que c'est 'muffin' ? "

I explained, and Paul chose the muffin with eggs and ham and french fries. Paul ate the eggs with gusto, thought the coffee was too weak, but announced loudly that "These are the best french fries I have ever eaten. I want to meet the chef."

"But Paul, this is a fast-food restaurant: there is no chef."

"Nonsense, Colette. Every kitchen has a chef!"

With these words, Paul got up and walked over to the counter where a young black man was standing, waiting to receive orders. To his astonishment and amidst flashes by photographers, Paul insisted on shaking his hand and saying over and over again, "Bravo, jeune homme. Les meilleures Frites que j'ai jamais mangees. Traduisez, Colette."

There were large headlines that evening in the papers, "Paul Bocuse eats the world's best French fries in New York at McDonald's." (pp. 128-129)
More than a decade later, Bocuse threatened to sue McDonalds in Paris (see New York Times), but that was a tasteless affair compared to the further faux pas Bocuse committed during that New York visit......

Read more in The World in My Kitchen. While there is no recipe for American-style French fries, that particular chapter ends with recipes for Poached Salmon with Spinach-Tarragon Sauce and Roast Quail with Kumquats and Thyme.

The World in My Kitchen, by Colette Rossant, cover by James Rossant

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