French Cuisine Is Haughty
aka: French Chef
If you can't read the menu, you obviously aren't worthy to eat it.
French Cuisine Is Haughty
refers to the association in many works of fiction between French cooking and high class gourmet dining. For factual information about French cusine, see Snails and So On
and the Wikipedia
article on French cuisine.
France in general and Gay Paree
in particular is considered by many to be the food capital of the world, and the French culinary tradition is often portrayed as the gold standard of fine dining. Characters visiting Paris will most likely make a point of sampling the fine dining there, and shows about chefs may take place in France.
The French chef is one of the central figures of this trope. Even in many non-French works that take place outside of France, top quality chefs tend to be either are French or experts in French food. The French chef is always a Supreme Chef
, and will generally regard himself as a true artist, be something of a drama king, and may be very temperamental if he feels that his genius is not being appreciated. He will probably speak Poirot Speak
and describe his creations in loving detail reaching the point of Food Porn
. A non-French chef attempting to establish his credentials as a gourmet chef will likely learn French cooking and litter his language with Gratuitous French
In fiction, a French restaurant is practically synonymous with high class dining. Most French restaurants are going to be upper-class preserve with an exclusive guest list, a dress code, a maître d’, and a supremely snooty waiter that practically tries to force the customers to order what the waiter thinks is proper rather than what the character wants. If characters of lesser standing can even get into such a place to begin with, they will likely end up embarrassing themselves with their inability to afford most of the things on the menu, their inability to understand and pronounce the French on the menu, and by a committing culinary faux pax such as ordering ketchup or having the wrong choice of wine with their meat. If the customer's culinary choices are particularly egregious, the chef will likely come out and fuss at them. If the restaurant does anything wrong, however, the chef may come out and personally apologize.
If the French chef does not work at a high class restaurant, he will be the personal chef for an upperclass household. Indeed, there was once a time where the French chef was considered as indispensable a part of the standard wealthy person's domestic staff as the French Maid
to Hollywood Cuisine
. Compare to French Jerk
for a character type common to the French restaurant, and Chez Restaurant
for a naming convention commonly used to make things sound high-class.
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Anime and Manga
- France from Axis Powers Hetalia says his cooking is absolutely divine. He's right.
- Antique Bakery: The title's cake shop has a menu entirely in French to evoke this idea, the head pâtissière learned his trade and title in France, and the apprentice goes to France for advanced cuisine instruction. The waitstaff, thankfully, don't manage the snooty part of the stereotype.
- Sanji from One Piece uses Gratuitous French to name his techniques in the original Japanese.
- Yumeiro Pâtissière has the lead character study to be a pâtissière in a French baking school.
- The cook at the Lodge house in Archie Comics is Gaston, a very temperamental French chef.
- Robotman And Monty has one strip where a condescending waiter laughs in secret after forcing Monty to pronounce "Pourri cerveau de singe kyste" (since the waiter gave a transparent excuse of not having his reading glasses). When the order is revealed to be "stewed rotten monkey brain" Monty is, of course, appalled and asks why they would even have something like that on the menu. The waiter responds that they found it to be quite popular when putting it next to a picture of hamburger.
- In the Team Fortress 2 fic Cheesy Potaters, Spy uses a sack of potatoes bought by Engineer to make a potato dish with cheese, leading to him arguing with Sniper over whether to call it "gratin dauphinois" or "cheesy potaters".
- The movie Euro Trip features a deleted scene where the kids go to an upscale French restaurant in Paris, complete with a snooty, condescending French waiter. When the kids receive the bill and see how expensive it is they quickly leave without paying. A moment later the waiter returns to the table to find it empty, and mistakenly believes that it was his insulting attitude that drove his customers away. We are then shown a montage of all the times in his life when he believed his personality drove away the customers when it reality it was the high prices of the food (beginning when he was a kid and waited on a table full of German soldiers during the occupation in World War II).
- In a very famous example, Ferris Bueller's Day Off features a scene where Ferris and his friends attempt to dine at an upscale French restaurant but the stuck-up maître d’ tries to turn them away. When Farris successfully convinces the maître d’ that he's a very wealthy and powerful customer, the embarrassed maître d’ quickly shows them to a table.
- LA Story has a very snooty French restaurant called l'Idiot, where the lead has to show his bank balance and several other references even to get a reservation. Snooty character played to Large Ham perfection by Patrick Stewart.
"You can't have the duck. Do you think with a financial statement like this you can have the duck?"
- In National Lampoon's European Vacation the Griswolds go to a French restaurant and are served by an incredibly rude and insulting waiter who tells them (in French, a language that none of the Griswolds speak) that he'll serve them dishwater rather than what they actually ordered because they won't be able to tell the difference, then he makes lewd remarks about Helen and Audrey before telling Clark "go fuck yourself."
- In the otherwise rote Burt Reynolds film Paternity, Burt tries to impress his date by quizzing the French waiter:
Reynolds: Waiter! What is the soupe du jour?
Acidulous waiter: "Soup of the Day."
- In the second Trinity movie, the two borderline-illiterate outlaw brothers suddenly find themselves really rich, buy smart suits and go to an expensive French restaurant. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the process of Putting the Band Back Together, The Blues Brothers go to Chez Paul, where Mr Fabulous is the top Maitre'D. Hilarity Ensues.
- Ratatouille subverts this; while Remy works in a fancy restaurant, the dish he wins a Caustic Critic over with (which is, in fact, ratatouille) is called a "peasant dish" and gives the critic a fond memory of being served it by his mother. Remy does change the presentation a bit, but he realized the place of non-haughty food.
- In the oft-forgotten Sarah Michelle Gellar romantic comedy Simply Irresistable, the cooks at the new multi-million-dollar restaurant the male lead's company is opening are all French, because of the perception that French food, and thus French chefs, are just better. When Gellar is brought in to replace the original head chef (a true lunatic who stomped out in a huff when he was "insulted" by one of the restaurant's corporate owners), the cooks who stayed behind tried to make fun of her obvious non-haute experience by making insulting comments about her, to her face, in French. Turned out she spoke French.
- P. G. Wodehouse, in his Jeeves and Wooster stories, has Anatole, a French chef of renown that is on the private staff of an British upperclass family. He tends to be very temperamental and prone to threatening to quit whenever he feels like his work is not being appreciated. Attempts by would-be employers to lure or trade for Anatole make the plots of several stories.
- In the children's book Clarence Goes to Town they go to a french restaurant where nobody ever eats (because it's new). Clarence [who is a dog btw] is initally disinvited from staying in the restaurant because it might disturb the other customers. Gascon the chef replies, "what other customers?" The chef makes a special meal for Clarence, who eats it in the window. A lot of passers-by see the dog enjoying the meal and come in to the restaurant. By the end of the book it's a big hit.
- In Indulgence in Death, one victim is a famous "French" chef who was actually born in Kansas.
- Parodied in Hogfather, where a Quirmian restaurant, to the head waiter's horror, is forced to sell old boots and mud under fake Quirmian names. The manager explains the situation to him:
"Look, Bill," he said, taking him by the shoulder. "This isn’t food. No one expects it to be food. If people wanted food they’d stay at home, isn’t that so? They come here for the ambience. For the experience. This isn’t cookery, Bill. This is cuisine."
- Pride and Prejudice: Mrs Bennet nods to Mr Darcy's opulent wealth and high class standards when she supposes that he has two or three French cooks. She was satisfied that he complimented their dinner at Longbourne.
- When the characters on Home Improvement want fine dining, they tend to go to a local restaurant whose waiter always insults them. When one of the boys takes a girl there for a dinner date, they end up just ordering salads because they can't afford anything else.
- The Cooking Show The French Chef, featuring Julia Child, both invoked and attempted to subvert this trope. It reinforced the association between cooking and France, however the message of the show was that ordinary Americans could prepare French cuisine at home. note
- Jacques Roach on The Jim Henson Hour, and his expy Yves St La Roache on The Animal Show with Stinky and Jake.
- In Good Eats, one of the recurring Sitcom Arch-Nemesis characters is "Mad French Chef". Like many of the recurring foes for Alton, he represents an "evil" of cooking, in this case, snooty, uptight traditional cooking "establishment".
- One of the most arrogant, annoying clients on Rumpole of the Bailey is Jean-Pierre O'Higgins (apparently half-French, half-Irish), who leaves his kitchen to personally berate Rumpole, who had the unmitigated chutzpah to demand a steak-and-kidney pudding at his restaurant. When he turns to Rumpole to defend against a charge under the health code, he softens a bit, but that doesn't make the "lightly grilled" duck he serves any less haughty.
- A Prairie Home Companion has Café Boeuf, an elite restaurant with Maurice the maitre d', who tends to be especially snooty, sometimes even insulting customers that do not meet their standards of class.
- Ratatouille actually does a great deal of subverting this trope. Gusteau's philosophy was that "anyone can cook", which is derided by snooty food critic Anton Ego, and there is a sequence showing how unsnooty the cooks at his restaurant are. At the end, Ego is won over by the titular stew, considered a lowly "peasant dish", which brings forth warm memories of his childhood.
- The Simpsons exaggerates this trope by having a French chef that tries to kill Homer Simpson after Homer gives him bad reviews. Granted, every other chef in town was teaming up to do the same.
- The Aristocats featured a dish called Prime Country Goose a la Provençale, which is apparently "stuffed with chestnuts" and "basted in white wine."
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- Griffon chef Gustave le Grand is an arrogant chef with a French accent and all the mannerisms stereotypical associated with French chefs.
- One Shot Background Pony Savoir Fare from The Ticket Master also fits the snooty waiter version of this trope (his answer to Spike ordering rubies is a condescending glare).
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a very irritable Breton (who're basically a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Brittany that have both human and elven ancestors in place of Celtic and French ones) who works as a chef in Markarth, complains about the quality of food and refuses to acknowledge the fact that he and Nords share the same ancestors. His snootiness makes killing him one of the bonus objectives in one of the Dark Brotherhood quests really cathartic.
- In Mass Effect 2 there is a Turian chef on the Citadel that exhibits a haughty, condescending attitude that is typically associated with French chefs/waiters. In his defense, however, the guy he was talking to was apparently an idiot, trying to mix dextro-amino spices with levo-amino foods, which would probably make anyone who ate the food sick.
- In Mass Effect 3: Citadel, the first part of the plot is a rendezvous in a haughty French sushi restaurant (apparently this is a trend in the 2180s). One of the alien customers even asks if it's "real French sushi".
- Zig-Zagged in Case 3 of Ace Attorney Investigations 2. One of the competitors in a cooking competition is revealed to be French, but it turns out they can't actually cook, they're a sculptor by trade.
- There is a common saying, with several variations, that "Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it is all organised by the Swiss."note
- Humorist Calvin Trillin has often referred to the stereotypical "fancy restaurant meal" (something stuffed into something else, covered in a gloppy, dull-flavored sauce) as "stuff-stuff with heavy".
- In November 2010 the French gastronomy was added by UNESCO to its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
- During the Ancien Regime, the nobles were keen on having the best cuisine in all of Europe. When the nobles were killed or exiled during The French Revolution, their cooks and such were hired by rich bourgeois instead and the ones who were not hired invented the restaurant. Other cooks emigrated and now worked for foreign monarchs and aristocrats as far afield as Russia, in the process spreading the fashion for French cuisine.
- Paris both subverts and plays this straight. Try to find a restaurant in the main touristy areas and you're likely to get ripped off. On the other hand, find a small, local restaurant off the beaten path where all the locals go and you can end up having one of the best meals of your life.
- This trope was averted by Napoleon Bonaparte. Although he was the Emperor of France, he, being Corsican (the cuisine of Corsica is much more Italian than French), hired an Italian personal chef. He also ate very quickly, taking almost no time to taste the food, contrary to what is customary in French cuisine (a French family lunch might take up to two hours). During his tenure as First Consul, he himself tended to joke "If you want to eat well, go to the Third Consul, if you want to be entertained well while eating, go to the Second Consul, if you want to eat quickly, come to me." Napoleon also preferred to have his food served à l'ambigu (Also known as Service à la française), i. e. all courses put on the table at once.
- For most of American history, the "official cuisine" for presidential functions at the White House in Washington DC was French. This was because of Thomas Jefferson, who believed that French Cuisine was the only real cuisine, and that certainly his countrymen had no grand culinary tradition to fall back on (it had only relatively recently begun to develop the economic wherewithal to support any kind of high-class dining; the early years had been devoted to hacking out a society in the wilderness). In 1921 Warren Harding decreed that from the White House would serve American cuisine at official functions. Though some presidents since then (John F. Kennedy being the best-known example) would switch it back to French, the official cuisine of the White House has stayed American since then. Mind you, like most "high-class" cuisines in the West, this "American" cuisine has some very heavy French influences.