It’s no secret that the French are proud of their cooking. It is a rich cultural heritage steeped in tradition so well-known and revered as to be inscribed in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) list of the intangible heritage of humanity. It’s a celebration of exacting, sometimes-austere, culinary standards that are all about careful selection of fine produce, appreciating regionality and terroir and above all else, the conviviality of dining.
A trip to France, for now, remains out of the question. You might even sate some of that culinary curiosity with a trip to either of Singapore’s three-Michelin-starred French haute dining heavyweights, Odette and Les Amis.
But maybe you don’t have the three hours to spare for a full-blown degustation – or you’d simply like to appreciate French culture with your other senses. That’s fine too. Alliance Francaise De Singapur, the local chapter of a not-for-profit international network that aims to celebrate all things French, is running the La Table Dans Tous Ses Etats (The Table In All Its States) exhibition that will be running until May 3.
The tables in question, of which there are three, are the centrepieces of said exhibition. They’re decked out in a variety of arrangements from contemporary to historic, including a picture-perfect set up of the dinner table at the Elysee Palace (the official residence of the President of the French Republic since 1848).
After all, a huge part of diplomacy for the country revolves around said dinner tables, which come with gorgeous silverware, glassware and other dinnerware have been provided in partnership with, naturally, luxury French marques Christofle, Baccarat and Bernadaud – an arrangement that corresponds with what’s done, and will continue to be done, at French state dinners. What isn’t usually done, however, is a table structure comprised entirely of folded paper that’s – thankfully – more than strong enough to support the weight of the dinnerware upon it and designed by a local French-born artist.
They’ve also got a host of historically accurate menus, down to the appetisers and wine lists, provided by the Fond Gourmand (Gourmet Fund) at the Municipal Library of Dijon. These include state dinners offered by French president Francois Hollande to the late King Rama IX of Thailand, and former President of the Republic of Singapore Tony Tan in 2015. There’s also a slew of first-class menus served on connections between France and other countries by sea and air.
For personal insight into French gastrodiplomacy, look no further than Guillaume Gomez, former chef at the Elysee Palace for 24 years and patron of this entire affair: he’ll be holding a live conversation on his storied life serving the French President come April 24, 4:30pm, as well as a conference on gastrodiplomacy with Laurent Stefanini, Ambassador of France to Monaco (though that experience has since sold out).
Other workshops that have also been fully booked include a champagne tasting experience with distinctive champagne house Perrier-Jouet; a workshop on wine tasting guided by former wine director of Raffles Hotel Singapore Stephanie Rigourd; and a cheese party from home, hosted by Cheese expert Antoine Zaruba, along with a massive cheese platter, optional wine pairings and plenty of friends. There’s even a class on the art of French table setting and fine etiquette with Catherine Bacon, founder of Le Savoir-vivre: Academy of Etiquette and Modern Manners.
For more info about the events, head to the Alliance Francaise website.