Taste of France: Innovation and Tradition in New York
Nearly 100,000 people gathered in New York City’s Bryant Park on September 28 and 29 to get a “Taste of France,” as the convention was called. Billed as the world’s largest event dedicated to France, it gathered French leaders and representatives to offer an image of France that is steeped in tradition and thoroughly innovative at the same time.
No less than nine French sectors were represented: lifestyle, technology, beauty, cuisine, wine and spirits, tourism, culture, children, and one called simply “fun.” Each area was fully described on the event’s website, www.tasteoffrance.com.
The event took place under the patronage of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Junior Minister for the Food Industry Guillaume Garot, both of whom attended the weekend’s festivities in person.
Traditions in Gastronomy
Thirty acclaimed French chefs from around the world attended the festival, creating his or her most celebrated dishes for demonstrations and tastings. The chefs, belonging to the prestigious French culinary organizations Maître Cuisiniers de France and L’Academie Culinaire de France, worked together on dishes native to their home regions. The exhibit also included presentations on the Lacanche stove, a 200-year-old invention from France’s Burgundy region.
Taste of France provided an array of wine tasting events as well. The Grand Wine Tasting offered a dégustation of over 100 wines and champagnes from 10 different French regions.
The largest-ever French picnic in the United States also took place, involving blue, white and red tablecloths and picnic baskets filled with French delicacies. To purchase the baskets or any products at the show, visitors exchanged U.S. dollars for “Mariannes,” a play currency named after France’s national symbol.
The exhibitions also offered a view into French technology and heavy industry. Both the Safran and Dassault Falcon aircraft and rocket engineering companies made a strong showing, including a demo of an actual airplane engine. Dassault also held a small rendition of its interactive video on the history of Paris, which was part of a larger September 2012 production at the foot of the city’s Hôtel de Ville.
The original showing utilized 10 computer screens and covered almost 500 square meters of space, serving as a visual crash course on 5,000 years of Parisian history. Other technological contributions to Taste of France included the display of helicopter models from Eurocopter. Founded in 1992 through a merger between the helicopter divisions of France’s Aerospatiale-Matra and Germany’s DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, the company is now owned by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and is one of the three largest aerospace organizations in the world.
Taste of France also exhibited French innovation on a smaller scale through demonstrations of metal workers and craftsman of artisanal French products. Metallurgists in France hone their unique skill of repoussage, or the art of pressing thin sheets of metal to create beautiful engravings. The finished works were all for sale at a French Market set up on the festival’s grounds.
Culture for All Ages
And on the cultural front, what’s more fun than live music, a picnic, and kid’s activities? The French and American national anthems were each performed by French-American soprano Sandra Hamaoui. Both nights featured concerts from Francophone singers and artists performing classical and contemporary French music. The show even invited patrons to sign up for a music contest on their Facebook page and compete for a spot on the Taste of France stage. The glamour continued at stands, where attendants offered hair and beauty sessions, as well as perfume and lavender demonstrations.
The Taste of France Show accommodated New York City’s children as well. The kid’s section included a Ratatouille-themed treasure hunt, ballet classes, and a giant wall designated for painting. Several French-American schools attended, among them the Ecole Internationale de New York and the Lycée Français de New York.
For those attendees inspired to visit France in person, the festival included a detailed tourism section. Eighty-two million foreigners visit France each year, making it the world’s number-one tourist destination in 2012.
Overall, the Taste of France Show embodied all aspects of France’s inspired culture, history, cuisine, and lifestyle. Organizers hope to run an even larger event next year, celebrating France’s art de vivre in the Big Apple and beyond.