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PARIS — It was the coldest night of the year, but guests still gathered on a lawn for a picnic dinner to celebrate the third annual Fooding Awards. Thankfully, the lawn was indoors — spread across the ground floor of the Contemporary Art museum Palais de Tokyo. The concept of fooding, a goofy but typically French neologism combining food and feeling, was created by young food critics Alexandre Cammas and Emmanuel Rubin, and the awards identify and promote young talents and unconventional restaurateurs.
“Enough of the dusty traditional French cuisine,” announced chef Alain Passard, sounding the cri du coeur of the Fooding movement. “The moment is for creativity, evolution, with top-quality products.”
Fooding couldn’t have a better spokesman than Passard, since he is securely ensconced among the pantheon of Great French Chefs. His Fooding of Distinction Award — a heavy Le Creuset casserole atop a tall marble plinth, which he dropped during the excitement — follows his three-star accolade for L’Arpège from the staunchly traditional Michelin Guide.
As for the dinner itself, a bone-warming broth by Cojean (the Paris equivalent of Hale & Hearty) and Jabugo Iberico & Co.’s acorn-fed Spanish ham were served to the 350 guests. Alain Ducasse gave his tartines. Wine flowed freely as the charcuterie platters were passed around. And each picnic blanket boasted a small refrigerator packed with dessert — Pierre Hermé’s flan.
Among the prizes were Best Take-Out (L’Avant Goût coté cellier); the Best See and Be Seen Award (to Le Martel, where Stella McCartney and Vincent Cassel are regulars), and the Best Bistrot (Ducasse’s Aux Lyonnais, which opened two months ago). Café Etienne Marcel, one of the Costes’ eateries, won the award for Best Décor (by Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno and M/M), while the more discreet owners of Le Chamarré got the Best Fusion Award for their subtle French-Mauritian cuisine. Azabu, a Japanese restaurant near Odeon on the Left Bank, snatched the Best World Food Award.
After three years, the Fooding Awards — the Golden Globes, compared to Michelin’s Oscars — have proven a reliable and increasingly influential guide to Parisians’ eating habits.
Tant mieux, as the French say — so much the better.
“We created this movement because we are tired of paying extra for mediocre and boring food,” explained Cammas. “The aim here is to have fun eating — but not just anything.”