Haute cuisine for the people

Katrina MeyninkKatrina Meynink is a freelance food writer who lives and breathes all things food. She is also a prolific lover of cookbooks. In addition to degrees in journalism and creative writing, she has a Masters in Gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu and the University of Adelaide, as well as an Advanced Diploma in Taste through the University of Reims, Paris and Hautes Etudes Du Gout. When she's not writing. Meynink blogs, eats and food styles through her business La Petite Miette, The Little Crumb.

Meynink has just published her second cookbook, Bistronomy: French Food Unbound. (You can enter our contest for your chance to win a copy.) The title refers to the nascent bistronomy movement, led by young chefs who create sophisticated food free from the pomp and circumstance of high-end restaurants. Meynink embraces bistronomy's concept of sharing by offering more than 100 recipes contributed by thirty Australian and international chefs. We asked Meynink to discuss the bistronomy movement.

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How did the bistronomy movement start?

There was a slow belly grumble; an ever-growing discontentment among both chefs and diners who wanted more from the experience of cooking and eating. Yves Camdeborde was the chef to articulate it with the opening of La Regalade in the early '90s; a restaurant that embodied all the elements of bistronomy - a focus on the food on the plate, ideas of thrift in tight economies and that sense of community and being in touch with the dining experience. People craved it, it was something they wanted and needed and a style of dining they could relate to. I think from there it was a natural progression as more diners sought that kind of experience and chefs relished the opportunity to give it to them.

How is bistronomy different from traditional French bistro cooking?

Bistronomy goes far beyond the traditional bistro fare, incorporating the technical skills of Michelin level with economic sensibility. Where French bistro is often a replication of the classics, bistronomy chefs always say the rules are, there are no rules. They play with different ingredients and styles. It is far more progressive and relaxed with no definitive style or structure.

Which chefs do you consider to be the leading lights in the movement?

The chefs profiled in Bistronomy: French Food Unbound first and foremost. Other chefs I am really interested and am following closely are Alexandre Gauthier, one of France's most underrated chefs and also I'm really interested in James Syhabout in Oakland, US. I think one of the greatest things about Bistronomy is that it is constantly evolving as more chefs try their talented hand at the style.

How many different countries are represented by the chefs in your book?

Seven countries are represented by the chefs in the book.

How much does the bistronomy concept change when the restaurant is outside of France?

I think bistronomy is actually quite a fluid concept and it is only the tenements of the movement that are replicated globally - freedom, generosity, spirit and the idea of frugality. It is quite free thinking so its not something that is "purely French," rather it is something owned and embodied by each of the chefs who understand bistronomy and cook in this style.

How many of the restaurants covered in your book were you able to visit?

At least 80% of them. I am still trying to work my way to Panama. While I have eaten Jose's food I am yet to eat in his restaurant. Watch this space.

How did you decide which chefs and restaurants to profile?

This was the hardest component of this project - there are lots of great bistronomy chefs and restaurants to profile and who, where and how they work is constantly changing. In most cases "stars had to align" - I needed some experience with the chefs, they needed to be available and willing to participate in the book amidst their commitments, so in many ways we found each other.

Do you have a personal favorite restaurant and recipe from the book?

While I hold them all dear, there is something about Sixpenny in Sydney and L'Ami Jean in Paris. As far as recipes go, who could ever say no to James Knappett's crisp chicken skins with bacon jam?

Photo by Matthew Duchesne

2 Comments

  • purplefoodie  on  12/18/2014 at 12:02 PM

    Choucroute garni for me!

  • Hollythecook  on  1/3/2015 at 5:35 AM

    I think she means tenets not tenements, sorry to be picky

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