“Cooking is geography, history, literature, heritage”

Author and food critic, host of the show “On va goûter” on France Inter and of “Très très bon” on Paris Première, François-Régis Gaudry spent half his life in Lyon. It is told through the kitchen, as one tells a city through its recipes.

François Régis-Gaudry, author and food critic @Marielle Gaudry

Lyon Capitale: Are you a big mouth?
Francois-Regis Gaudry: I was, but over the years I smoothed things over. When you start in the profession of food critic – for me it was in the years 2005-2006 to The Express –, you want to carve out a certain reputation, to get noticed. So you bite a little on the calf of great chefs and sometimes, in your criticism, you mix honey and gall. I calmed down a bit because my temperament is rather to highlight the good side of things, to try to be in a happy medium, in a kind of empathy with the chefs that I adore. But at the same time, you have to open it up a bit when subjects affect you, concern you or shock you. It is therefore necessary to keep the capacity to be loudmouth a little intact.

The fact of being born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon and having spent several years in the capital of Gaul, rich in gastronomy, is that what made your mouth water and made you hungry?
Yes, it mattered a lot. When you grow up in a city, it’s just like a plant in a vegetable patch: the more fertile the soil, the more you grow. My own breeding ground was Lyon. There was also a family context with my father from Lyon and my mother from Corsica. They met in Lyon where I lived for 19 years, until khâgne and hypokhâgne at the Édouard-Herriot high school before leaving for Paris to study at Sciences Po. Lyon is therefore the city of my childhood and my adolescence. My mother, from Corsica, cooked many island recipes learned from her mother in Bastia. She also practiced a lot of chameleonism. When she arrived in Lyon, she blended into the landscape and wanted, in her cuisine, to be much more Lyonnais than the people of Lyon. She made it a point of honor to prepare very fine Lyon specialties for us. I grew up with the sabodet from Reynon, the hot sausage from Sibilia and Bobosse, the “qu’nelles” with Nantua sauce, the praline tart from Sève. I have an extraordinary memory of the watercress sandwiches at Chorliet. We regularly went into traffic jams. And even if we weren’t rolling in gold – my parents were teachers – tradition dictated that for each piece of good news, we broke the piggy bank in order to afford a good table. At a fairly early age, I went to Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, in Mionnay, near Lyon, Léon de Lyon, etc. I also remember, with emotion, the restaurant Larivoire, in Rillieux-la-Pape, where we tasted oysters au gratin with champagne. All these beautiful restaurants in Lyon amazed me. I discovered the theatrical spectacle of a service, the ballet of the waiters. Lyon is the city that civilized my taste buds.

“The immense paradox of France is its schizophrenia in gastronomic matters”

Behind the pure restaurant criticism, isn’t this the pretext to tell the heritage, the history, the literature, the arts?
Sure. For me, cooking and gastronomy are reading grids allowing you to open up to the world in all its facets. Cooking is certainly technical gestures, proportions, grammages but, as the chef Alain Chapel, for whom I have immense respect, said, “cooking is much more than recipes” (it’s moreover the title of one of his works). Cooking is geography, history, literature, heritage. And the best way to get to know a city or a country is to lift its pans. Take Lyon: by the cooking of the corks, we can explain the history of the canuts and the silk industry, by the cooking of the mothers of Lyon, these maids who worked in the service of bourgeois and aristocratic families, we can explain a part Lyon sociology. The recipes actually tell a story: they are first of all stories, life journeys, Proust’s madeleinesthe little stories that tell the big one.

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