The ‘secret’ of French restaurants is revealed

PARIS — Daniel Fasquelle wants the world to know the startling secret in the kitchens of many French restaurants: they don’t cook their own food.

The French member of Parliament is pushing a law to restrict the use of the label ‘‘restaurant’’ to establishments that prepare their food from scratch.

Fasquelle reckons that many of France’s eateries wouldn’t cut it because they reheat industrially prepared foods.


If you’ve ever wondered why a ‘‘moelleux au chocolat’’ or a ‘‘tarte tatin’’ tastes suspiciously the same in Paris restaurants, it’s probably because it is.

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About a third of French restaurants say they use industrial food, and Fasquelle and other officials fear declining standards at the nation’s 150,000 restaurants threaten a tourism industry that represents 7 percent of France’s $2.8 trillion economy.

‘‘The odds are sadly good you’ll be eating a preprepared dish or two if you dine out at the low- to mid-level of the Paris food chain,’’ said Alexander Lobrano, author of ‘‘Hungry for Paris’’ and former European Editor of Gourmet.

‘‘I fervently hope that a law with real teeth will be passed in France,’’ Lobrano said, “since it would not only go a long way to preserving the country’s distinguished gastronomic reputation but also reward those chefs who work so hard to prepare ‘real’ freshly cooked food from quality ingredients.’’

Fasquelle, who is pushing for an amendment to a consumer protection bill, won a partial victory Thursday when the National Assembly voted to require restaurants to say on their menu that what they serve is ‘‘fait maison,’’ or made there.


Fasquelle says he will still push ahead with his amendment when theconsumer bill returns from the Senate later this year.

France’s restaurants have revenue of $55.9 billion and 405,000 employees whose future is threatened by increased use of prepared food, he said.