Consider it a happy accident of timing that a mere week after Time magazine’s men-only Gods of Food issue came out and offended everyone that had a clue, the hottest restaurant guide in Paris, Le Fooding, assembled an august, all-woman panel of eleven chefs, a sommelier and a winemaker to put together a pop-up dinner from November 15-17. Le Clan des Madones, as the event was called, had actually been in the works for six months, and Le Fooding had nothing else in mind for it but to shine a light on the abundant female talent working in France, and raise some money for an orphanage in Brazzaville, Congo. But Time’s article, and a similarly exclusionary piece on “the new French bistro” published the day before in the French newsweekly L’Express, gave the event, held in a macho (and freezing) parking garage in the 15tharrondissement, an added dose of right-on-sisterliness.
Not that anyone should need a theme or a cause to want to eat food prepared by Yamt’cha’s Adeline Grattard, Neva Cuisine’s Beatriz González, Café dei Cioppi’s Federica Mancioppi, Le Bal Café and Ten Belles’ Alice Quillet and Anna Trattles, among others, or to knock back the natural Loire wines of Catherine Breton. The menu, different all three nights, included roasted monkfish with shitakes and cognac sauce (Grattard); veal and razor clam tartare in avocado leaf broth (González); a Tuscan bouillon laced with bread, chanterelle mushrooms and a raw egg yolk (Agata Felluga, a former second at Le Chateaubriand recently relocated to Strasbourg); and a chocolate ganache with coffee-soaked prunes, bread and butterscotch (Quillet and Trattles).
The participants were almost all women running their own restaurants—in González’s case with an all-female kitchen staff—but they liked the chance to roll up their sleeves together. “My experience has mostly been in very dude places,” said Camille Fourmont, who used to work the front of house at Le Dauphin and Mama Shelter, and is now the one-woman show behind La Buvette, an utterly low key wine bar in the 11th arrondissement. “But I don’t think there’s really a masculine or feminine cuisine. I’ve eaten delicate and subtle things by men and rough stuff by women.” While it’s great that the gender imbalance in the food world is getting some attention, she added, “it’s not just in our milieu. Look at finance, high level medicine and everywhere else, it’s the same problem.” Sad but true, but it made these three nights in November that much nicer, even if it was so cold that Felluga threatened to assemble plates wearing gardening gloves. How dainty.
Alexandra Marshall is Travel + Leisure's Paris-based correspondent.