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When non-French people think of French cuisine, the imagery often conjured up involves immaculate white tablecloths, silverware and waiters with black bow-ties, but according to French chef Philippe Mouchel, this is outdated.
“French cuisine in France has evolved quite a lot,” he told SBS French.
The Australian-based master of French food and owner of Melbourne restaurant, Philippe, explained that young French chefs are doing away with the formality found in gastronomic restaurants in favour of a new trend, know as "bistronomie".
After taking off in France several years ago, bistronomie (a portmanteau of the words 'bistro' and 'gastronomy') enjoyed such success as a food trend, French chefs decided to introduce the new concept into French-themed Australian restauarnats.
As its name indicates, bistronomie offers high-quality French cuisine with a more laid-back service and environment, just like in bistros. Restaurants adopting the bistronomie etiquette favour handmade plates, menus on blackboards and casually-dressed staff.
The food served is still French, but fresher and less heavy than ever.
“French cuisine is based essentially on produce, local and in season. It’s rooted in traditions, but it has been revisited and modernised with lighter sauces and gravies,” Mr Mouchel explained.
Bistronomie at Philippe
The French chef has Mouchel is a proponent of bistronomie at his Melbourne’s restaurant, Philippe. While he loves Australian ingredients, he makes sure that the flavours of his dishes remain truly French: “The Australian customers coming to eat at my restaurant have often travelled to France. It’s very important to me to keep an authentic French taste and help them rediscover dishes they had while travelling.”
If you go to Philippe for the first time, you’ll find a lot of revisited French classics on the menu like tarte flambée (a thin crust covered with fromage blanc, onion and bacon), wagyu beef tartare and escargots in garlic butter. But Mouchel is even more known for his meat cooked in a rôtissoire or on charcoal, like Bannockburn chicken, duck and lamb rack.
The influence of Paul Bocuse
It’s thanks to culinary legend Paul Bocuse the Mouchel came to Melbourne.
Born in Normandy, Mouchel trained with Bocuse in Lyon. He worked all around the world before coming to Melbourne to open the Paul Bocuse restaurant in 1991. He then led other kitchens in Melbourne, Sydney and Japan, before opening Philippe in 2016.
Losing his mentor earlier this year was a hard blow: “It’s a great loss for the world of cuisine, and for me personally. Having worked 25 years for Monsieur Bocuse left traces. He’s a bit like my second dad. He taught me everything, not only cooking, but also how to work with and educate the staff.”
But Bocuse’s teachings still lives on today. “He was a fantastic man who gave everything. He would show you how to work and give everything he had,” says Mouchel. “Everyday, I think about Monsieur Bocuse. We can’t forget him."