Molecular Gastronomy

Insect menu ‘lost us star’

THE OWNER of a Nice restaurant that started an insect-themed menu last year believes this played a large role in his losing his Michelin star in this year’s guide.

Chef David Faure, who opened Aphrodite in 2002 and gained the star in 2010, caused a stir with his “Alternative Food” menu, which he added to other options such as “molecular gastronomy” as well as more classic cuisine.

The menu is based on French-grown, organic-fed mealworms and crickets, used whole.

“From a lot of feedback I’ve been getting from people in the industry, using insects counted very strongly in the decision. I’m not going to use it as an excuse and say it’s the only possible reason – like other restaurants we have had a lot of problems recently finding staff qualified to cook and wait in a gastronomic restaurant and there were two or three mealtimes during the year when things were a bit difficult.

“But if you look at our article in the guide this year, if finishes with “…and insects!” which I think gives you an idea of what they thought.”

“People have said to me that it doesn’t fit in with the criteria of the guide and of French gastronomy; that we’ve gone off course and need to start doing more ‘normal’ cuisine again.”

He added: “As soon as we started the insects I had loads of messages from other Michelin-starred chefs saying I was mad and was going to lose my star, but I like to do new things – when we started molecular cuisine in 2007 it wasn’t very well-known in France and we were criticised, but now every French chef has dishes using ‘molecular’ techniques.”

Mr Faure said he is involved in talks with food industry colleagues across Europe about promoting insects as food, and has no plans to stop using them. “The idea is to get Europeans used to thinking of insects as being edible – it’s already familiar to most of the world.”

However, while he uses them whole to create a surprise factor, he said the future is more likely to see increasing use of them ground up as flours. He said they are a nutritious and eco-friendly way to help deal with feeding a world population expected to grow to nine million in another 30 years.

“Today we’re using them in a way that provokes – using them whole in the plate, set off – to get the discussion going. In the future we might see, for example, if we lack space for growing cereals, biscuits with 30% of insect flour, with high levels of protein and omega 3 but without them being visible.

“Some customers say ‘wouldn’t it have been better if they had been hidden, as powder, under some fish’, but no, it’s not the goal.

“There are people for and against. Some people send us aggressive anonymous letters with insults and threats. But we always get positive feedback from people who have tried the menu.

“Losing the star is annoying on a personal level, when you’ve worked all your life for it, but we built up a reputation before the star and are always nearly full, and I think it doesn’t matter to our customers.”

A Connexion reviewer last year found the insects to be “like Bombay mix” and called the menu “delicious”.

A Michelin spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on reasons why individual chefs lost their star, however decisions are based on five criteria: the quality of their ingredients – their foie gras and truffles etc, the personality of the chef, the cooking and flavours – is it well-cooked and at the right temperature… and regularity – is it of high quality all year round? – and the value for money. The inspectors look at all of these and note if there’s a lowering of quality of what’s in the plate.”

(as reported in The CONNEXION) with Photo credit: Cook and Shoot

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