Festival of Gastronomy at the heart of the French art of welcoming
I recently met with Sophie Mise le Bouleise, the Chief Commissioner of the fifth annual Festival of Gastronomy, which will take place on Friday the 25th, Saturday the 26th, and Sunday the 27th of September 2015 throughout all of France. Have you heard about this event? Are you planning on participating? How? I invite you to discover below and consult the program of events at the bottom of my interview with Sophie Mise le Bouleise.
Can you tell us about the “Festival of Gastronomy”?
The Festival of Gastronomy has several objectives. First off, it’s been designed for everyone in the public of all ages and social classes. The events for the Festival of Gastronomy offer a time for new discoveries, exchanges, and conviviality. Visitors will discover a form of multi sensory exploration, around taste, the study of the seasons, and especially on fresh produce, as well as on learning about the raising of livestock and fishing. So you see, it’s about understanding and experimenting with how a chef transforms a product. I am secretly hoping that the public will come out of it with helpful changes, for instance, through more knowledge and new ways of consuming and even cooking. You may come to find yourself eating very simple dishes like roasted carrots, for example, which are every bit as magnificent as they are gourmet. Charcuterie, too, is not just ham that’s been bathed in water and polyphosphate. This festival has the potential to change consumer desires, as well as fashion the respect and knowledge of products and careers by conveying the passion that inspires its very agents.
Second, this event, which has been made possible by the Ministry of Economy and Finances through Minister Martine Pinville, works the B2B angle. Through the work of strategy, preparation, event creation, and post-event follow-up, this event has been designed to serve agents of gastronomy and to create a true tourist opportunity for France by involving tourist agencies. We are hoping it will provide leveraging effects on business activities and boost diagnostic work on the development of their business and strategy. In this way, the festival represents a true opportunity for economic development.
It’s an ambitious three-day event for the entire country, thanks to the visibility that it promises to offer for French talents both domestically and abroad. Service, the art of welcoming, and luxury will naturally play a large part.
What might a hotel manager wish to do in the context of the Festival of Gastronomy?
The idea is to highlight expertise, talent, and service, as well as to facilitate new meetings and experiences out of the ordinary. It is not enough to simply allow for dining. You have to give your clients something to see, to share, and to experiment by creating gestures in the cuisine (in the carving of a duck) and the service (in the unveiling a dish).
All the professionals will have to come together to meet the clients and enthusiasts, who may even end eavoron those particular days to take a step inside the kitchens, since they will not be there strictly as a client, but rather as an explorer.
What is your favorite experience in terms of service? And what, for you, are the ingredients for successful service at the greeting stage?
It’s important to speak with industry professionals, who have not only both training and a great technical skill set, but also a genuine passion for what they do. You have to have your heart and soul invested in the act of giving, conveying, and possessing a true sense of personal reception in order for the clients to feel good; otherwise, the experience won’t be a successful one. It’s something that comes by instinct. When you enter a place, you can very easily tell if a smile is sincere, if the person there is happy to see you come through the door. That’s what makes the difference. We can forgive a person a lack of technique, but not a lack of human warmth and of a sincere desire to do well.
During the preparations for the Festival of Gastronomy, there were some places that left me surprised, sometimes dumbfounded, with their display of luxury and simplicity that was at times disconcerting. They make you feel so good that you’re almost left to believe that no one was actually doing any work, when really it all comes down to an unfathomable level of precision. When you arrive at this level of service, it just goes to show that the entire team has executed some considerable work! I’ve had two experiences that left just such an impression on me and that I can recount.
The first one involved our 2012 sponsor, Michel Guérard, at the occasion of a closing dinner with our ministers in 2012 where I discovered this site of infinite beauty. The attention to detail, the warmth, a place where everyone is happy to greet you, simply speak for themselves. A true beauty. You really do feel wrapped up in this kind of experiential cocoon where you feel truly secure. It’s very precious.
I also felt this in Reims back in 2014, at the Domaine des Crayères where I was witness to a rare form of professionalism, as well as to the exceptional generosity of the General Manager who was coaching his teams on accommodating extremely high expectations. This intense level of attention allows each client to fully take in the site and take part in an exceptional experience. There was also, in this particular case, a true joy in being there and serving a site and a cuisine of great beauty. I sensed a true collective spirit, as you might in a sports team, where everyone contributed to the pleasure of the client and received some back in return. One can create a strong dynamic, where giving and receiving circulates between the clients and the teams. You know, it’s interesting that you’ve made me express this, since it’s just as fundamental to my daily work. When one achieves this sense of perfection, ultimately the satisfaction of the client comes full circle to deliver in its turn a powerful and inexhaustible energy.
Find more than 9500 events across France for the Festival of Gastronomy on:
A few statistics on gastronomy in France released by the Ministry of Economy:
- 8 billion Euros in gross profit and 794,000 salaried employees for careers in restaurants (5th largest employment sector);
- 145 billion Euros in gross profit and 475,000 employed food professionals;
- 7 billion Euros in gross profit for tableware;
- 5% of total consumption undertaken by foreign tourists
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.