Chefs du Collège Culinaire de France ©Philippe PetitFrench gastronomy is in crisis and to save it 15 of the country’s most illustrious chefs have joined forces to launch a campaign to secure its culinary future.

With Tokyo recently overtaking Paris as the world’s gastronomic capital with the most Michelin-starred restaurants, critical voices have got louder than ever arguing French cuisine has for too long rested on its laurels.

Although declared part of the world’s heritage by the United Nations, French cuisine stands accused of not moving with the times and failing to adapt to a changing culinary world order in which a new generation of chefs continually pushes the boundaries.

The final straw came last week, when for the first time ever, France failed to make it onto the podium at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyon, which was dominated by Scandinavian countries.

With all that in mind, the crème de la crème of French Michelin-starred chefs gathered yesterday at the restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel in Paris to unveil the country’s first chef lobbying group: the Collège Culinaire de France.

With honorary members Paul Bocuse, Michel Guérard and Pierre Troisgros, and founding members including Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse, Anne-Sophie Pic, Marc Haeberlin and Yannick Alléno, it’s obvious they mean business.

Their objectives are straightforward: Create an organisation that defends the interests of French gastronomy. Through advocating the industry as an “economic power”, and opening the doors of the country’s top restaurants to train up a new generation of French master chefs, it aims to secure France’s future as the world-leader of gastronomy.

The group also plans to establish a museum of gastronomy in Paris and will publish an annual list of thousands of the finest French products and producers to help boost exports and awareness worldwide.

“It is not arrogant or pretentious to say that France is the foundation
of gastronomy for the planet. It is simply right. It’s a fact,” said

Robuchon was slightly more reserved. “We are in a time
when everyone is working for themselves,” he told news service Reuters.
“We wanted to create a group that works together for the excellence of
French gastronomy and export it overseas where it is still unknown.”

added: “We want the authorities to take note and if possible help
economically such as through marketing. We have a beautiful past and we
can look forward calmly, but competition exists and we shouldn’t forget

While critics speak of an arrogance among these chefs, who
advocate their culinary heritage without a hint of humility, I can’t
help but admire their effort. You’d be hard pressed to get chefs of a
similar calibre in the UK together to launch such an initiative.