Why we only live to serve
Try the grey stuff, its delicious
Dont believe me, ask the dishes
They can sing, they can dance
After all, Miss, this is France
And a dinner here is never second best
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 cuisine, 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 pas 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.
Sub-Trope to Hollywood Cuisine and Haute Cuisine Is Weird. 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. See also Angry Chef.
- France from Hetalia: Axis Powers 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.
- Highly refined Blood Knight Chou Komei from Soul Hunter invites Taikoubou and Supu to a fancy lunch in which vegetarian French cuisine is served. They eat everything with gusto, though they admit that everything's good as long as it's edible.
- Yumeiro Pâtissière has the lead character study to be a pâtissière in a French baking school.
- 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".
- The cook at the Lodge house in Archie Comics is Gaston, a very temperamental French chef.
- The French chef in the Framing Device of Anthony Bourdain's Hungry Ghosts is portrayed as a stereotypical Angry Chef, made a lot more understandable in "Deep" where he tells how the kitchen he was apprenticed too was a Chain of Harm where chefs would take out their frustration of their inferiors, the apprentices at the very bottom of the hierarchy.
- 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 Boys And Girls, a fanfic of The Loud House, there's a mention of a fancy French restaurant that requires fancy clothes and has a fountain out the front.
- 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".
- Ratatouille subverts this; while Remy works in a fancy restaurant, the dish he wins the Caustic Critic over with is called a "peasant dish"—specifically, a ratatouille—because it gives the critic a fond memory of being served it by his mother. (There's a bit of Truth in Television there: for many French, especially those from the South of France, a good ratatouille would definitely be Comfort Food of the first order.) Remy does change the presentation a bit (switching out rough-cut veggies all mixed together for rounds layered on top of each other), but he realized the place of non-haughty food. (The actual recipe for the specific variant—called confit byaldi—was developed by nouvelle cuisine chefs who were, in essence, trying to figure out a way to make the classic homey French dish in a way that would be presentable in a high-class restaurant while losing none of what made the original ratatouille good; all accounts are that they succeeded.)
- The Aristocats featured a dish called Prime Country Goose à la Provençale, which is apparently "stuffed with chestnuts" and "basted in white wine".
Thomas O'Malley: "Basted?" He's been marinated in it!
- Arthur's Perfect Christmas: Subverted for laughs at La Bruncherie ("A Fancy Place for Brunch!"), where the food turns out to be quite pedestrian beneath the prim presentation and pretense:
Waiter: [In a stilted French accent] ...and for monsieur: fromage américain in a blanket of hen eggs.
Buster: Huh? I thought I ordered a cheese omelette.
Waiter: [sighs, drops accent] It is a cheese omelette.
- 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 Ferris successfully convinces the maître d' that he's a very wealthy and powerful customer, the embarrassed maître d quickly shows them to a table.
- L.A. Story has a very snooty French restaurant called l'Idiot, where the lead has to show his bank balance and several other references to even get a reservation. The restaurant's snooty employee is 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.
- In the oft-forgotten Sarah Michelle Gellar romantic comedy Simply Irresistible, 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.
- Most of The Hundred Foot Journey's plot centers around this — along with a healthy amount of Culture Clash.
- 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
- P. G. Wodehouse, in his Jeeves and Wooster stories, has Anatole, a French chef of renown who is on the private staff of an upperclass British 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, being a dog, is initially 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 isnt food. No one expects it to be food. If people wanted food theyd stay at home, isnt that so? They come here for the ambience. For the experience. This isnt cookery, Bill. This is cuisine."
- In Unseen Academicals, Glenda (a Supreme Chef in her own right, though very much in the traditional British mode) sees the banquet menu as snooty and therefore unpalatable to the footballers. Her way of putting this is asking "You're giving them Avec?"
- This attitude is subsequently moderated in Snuff, in which Quirmian food (the Discworld counterpart of French) is acknowledged to be "pretty damn good, even if they did use a shade too much avec".
- 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:
- 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.
- In the Robert Sheckley short story "Cordle to Onion to Carrot", the normally-meek protagonist celebrates his newly-discovered power to be a complete Jerkass by gleefully trampling on every last Berserk Button of the snooty waiters in a French restaurant. As he departs in triumph, he's surprised they don't lynch him.
- In Good Omens Famine's attempt to bring his restaurant franchise (which serves something that tastes exactly like normal fast food but has no nutritional benefit whatsoever - it's a "diet" "food" that makes you obese before you starve to death) to France is foiled because his pathfinder salesmen are shot dead 30 minutes after arriving. (He had, however, had a previous success in France with the invention of nouvelle cuisine.)
- In the The Bliss Bakery series, there is a famous baking competition that takes place in France. The baker who is the only judge on the competition is, of course, French, and very haughty.
- In the Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries, the head chef for the titular hotel is fakes being French in order to take advantage of the stereotype that the best chefs are French.
- I Love Lucy: Lucy famously pretends to be a Frenchwomen while visiting Paris; she visits a Parisian sidewalk café and snubs the Mertzes as "Les Americans", ends up ordering Escargot and is horrified to find out she's ordered snails, tries to put ketchup on said snails outraging the chef, and is finally arrested for unknowingly passing the counterfeit money she was duped into taking by a conman outside the American Express Office.
- 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". Also, in the boiullabaise episode, the French chefs from Alton's backpacking-through-Europe days tell him that he won't be able to prepare the dish, as it is a matter of national pride to them...and US waters don't contain the one fish considered by them to be essential (although they do contain some that are close.) They tell him it's crap when he serves it to them, but they finish the whole thing.
- 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 (and worse, a "mashed... SPUD!") at his restaurant. When he turns to Rumpole to defend against a charge under the health code,note he softens a bit, but that doesn't make the "lightly grilled" duck he serves any less haughty.
- Ash and Camilla from My Kitchen Rules are self-admitted "food snobs", and during the show's prelims, they try to show off their sophistication by serving French dishes.
- In long-running French sitcom Les Filles d'à côté, the "girls next door" are initially intrigued and excited when one of their number, Fanny, brings home a large exciting parcel as a "surprise present". Claire and Magalie excitedly help her tear the wrapping off. Then excitement turns to disenchantment when they realise it's a microwave oven. Apparently this is something to disdain and only usually to be found in Britain or the USA, two countries where people have absolutely no idea how to prepare food properly and only know how to butcher good ingredients. Such a device has no place whatsoever in a French kitchen...
- One episode of Charmed (1998) featured the girls' father Victor bringing Piper's Kid from the Future Chris to a fancy French restaurant in an attempt to bond with him and learn why he's being so distant from Piper. The waiter has a thick accent and derides Chris for unfamiliarity with and inability to pronounce the menu items, though Chris antagonizes him right back.
- Succession: When Tom forces Greg to accompany him on an outing to show him "how to be rich," he takes Greg to a fancy French restaurant and orders them both ortolan bunting, a whole cooked bird eaten in one bite while you put a napkin over your head to hide your decadence from God's judgment. Tom praises the dish as "gamy" and Greg finds the whole experience unpleasant.
- Frasier and Niles Crane often dine at high-end, exclusive French restaurants in Seattle. They're regular diners at Chez Henri, Le Cigare Volant, Le Petit Bistro and Quelquechose while looking down at other cuisines. Shortly after Niles and Daphne get together she lampshades their snobby preferences when Niles admits he doesn't like her cooking.
Daphne: Well, I'm sorry it's not the hoity-toity crap you eat!
Niles: What does that mean? Are you saying I'm pretentious?
Daphne: You'd eat a worm if I gave it a French name!
- Our Miss Brooks: In the episode French Sadie Hawkins Day, Miss Brooks accidentally orders "Parking in Rear" from the snobby maître d'hôtel. She then proceeds to order expensive meals for everybody, ignorant of the fact that she has agreed to pay for the meal.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mass Effect:
Turian Shopkeeper: You don't mix your spice chiralities. What cooking school did you say you went to?
- 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.
Human Customer: I don't go to cooking school, I just want something tasty to put on a steak.
Shopkeeper: Why don't you go to Fishdog Food Factory on level 23? Ask for the Tummy-Tingling Tuchanka Sauce.
Customer: Please, you gotta help me. I need to make something nice. It's for a date!
Shopkeeper: Fine. Asari honey marinade. Made at an Ardat-Yakshi monastery by sad, tortured blue souls. Too sweet for a real connoisseur, but anyone willing to date you will probably be impressed.
Customer: Hey, thanks!
- 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".
- The Kalos region from Pokémon X and Y is based on France. It was the first game to feature the protagonist's eating food at restaurants. Compared to the other regions more casual foods like ramen or sushi, Kalos cuisine is certainly different. The higher end restaurants serve such delicacies as 3000 year old bones boiled in snow for 100 years.
- Bastian and his daughter Elise own the only restaurant in Harvest Moon: Light of Hope. They're both French and sprinkle their dialogue with Gratuitous French.
- Luigi's Mansion 3 has Chef Soulfflé. His name is based on a French dish and he makes stereotypical "hohn hohn" sounds, and he's a chef with a very poor temper who attacks Luigi for accidentally making him drop the fish he was cooking.
- 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.
- At one point in his Twitter-depicted adventures, Girl Genius character Othar Tryggvassen needs to get out of Paris quickly and in defiance of the city's all-powerful ruler, and so is forced to resort to desperate and unseemly measures: he goes to one of the fanciest restaurants in town, engages in elaborate and expert negotiations with the waiter, and when the resulting masterpiece is finally brought to his table in person by the head chef...
Othar: He waits for me to eat. I hesitate, and then ask for a bottle of ketchup. We are tossed out the city gates less than 3 minutes later.
- Binging with Babish has an episode dedicated to the hors d'oeuvres from the "Be Our Guest" number from Beauty and the Beast. (Incidentally, he concludes that "the gray stuff" is chicken liver mousse, which is, in fact, delicious.) (For copyright/You Tube reasons, the sound has a weird, under-watery character that makes zero sense on basically every level—including legal/copyright ones.)
- DuckTales (1987): Scrooge Mcduck suffers this trope when he lunches at a French restaurant in "The Status Seekers".
- 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.
- 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).
- Exaggerated in an episode of Regular Show when Muscle Man's girlfriend takes him and her parents to a fancy French restaurant, and the staff (led by the stereotypical snooty waiter) try to kill them after Muscle Man tries to eat Crème brûlée with the wrong kind of spoon.
- In an episode of Disney's Doug, Patti drags Doug to a French restaurant to spy on what she thinks is a date between her father and Roger Klotz's mother. They try to get away with ordering crackers and ketchup, but when the waiter growls angrily at them Patti orders two bowls of vichyssoise to appease them. Neither of them has ever had it, and have to be informed that it's served cold rather than hot.
- Recess has Chef Pierrot, who cooks gourmet meals for the school faculty in the teacher's lounge, while the kids have to settle with much plainer (but still usually palatable) food
- In one Yogi Bear cartoon, Yogi and Boo-Boo win a trip to Paris. At a fancy restaurant, Yogi tries to put ketchup on his steak, which makes the chef so angry that he takes the bottle and hits him on the head with it.
- 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.
- Averted Trope by Napoléon Bonaparte. Although he was Emperor of France, he, being Corsican, hence hired an Italian personal chef. The cuisine of Corsica is much more Italian than French—not surprising as Corsica had been French territory barely a year when Napoleon was born there; he grew up speaking Italian, and spoke French with a noticeable accent his entire life. Napoleon ate very quickly, taking almost no time to taste the food, contrary to French customs (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 now 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.
- Russian aristocracy's francophilia has a lo-o-ong history,note and the father of the classical French Haute Cuisine, Marie Antoine Carême, served the Russian Tzar for a time. Moreover, since the Napoleonic Wars and especially the 1812 invasion, which ended in a huge amount of French soldiers choosing to stay in the country seeing it as an opportunity, not just a noble's court, but even a humble city tavern or a roadside inn could afford to hire a genuine French cook. It led to a huge intermixing of the culinary traditions not only on a level of the haute cuisine, but also between commoners' cooking, especially after some of those cooks returned home at last. The most enduring sign of this exchange is a Service à la Russe, when the courses are served one-after-one.
- In Las Vegas casinos, the French restaurant is often the fanciest in the hotel. Examples include Bellagio's Le Cirque, Caesars Palace's Guy Savoy, MGM Grand's Joel Robuchon, Paris's Eiffel Tower Restaurant, and the Palms' Alize.
- Lyon is the second biggest city in France, and is universally regarded as the gastronomic capital of France, being the birthplace of many of France's most famous chefs, including (now-deceased) culinary legend Paul Bocuse.
- Even the French Military gets in on this. While certainly not glamorous the RCIR (i.e.: combat rations) menus include entrées with rabbit, duck, and veal.
- French schools are known for excellent school lunches, which are considered, in of themselves, to be cultural education about the superiority of French cuisine.
- French chef Auguste Escoffier is the Trope Maker. Before his coming, French cuisine wasn't particularly esteemed and being a cook was seen as a menial job because of the grueling conditions (they had to work all day in dark kitchens, without being able to open the windows while using coal to make fire). Escoffier is largely credited for making the profession a respectable one by imposing a stricter code of conduct (forbidding the consumption of alcohol and encouraging quietness in the kitchen) while making himself not only respected but also celebrated through his sheer talent at cooking, and marketing acumen by associating with the contemporary elite. Escoffier approached cookery as an art form, was among the first chefs to show himself to his clients and describe the dishes, dedicated recipes to celebrities and made it a point to promote French cuisine and French products, popularizing French cuisine among nobles and rich businessmen from all the world. As such, he earned the title of "king of chefs and chef of kings".
- The Japanese certainly believe in this trope, as the biggest Non-Japanese haute cuisine group in Japan is French. Japan also has many French Culinary training programs that send aspiring students from Japan to France to train in French cuisine, and French cuisine is the inspiration for an entire branch of Japanese cuisine called Yoshoku (European/American inspired cuisine), which includes common foods like katsu and croquettes. During the Meiji-Showa Pre-WWII era, French food was served to government officials as standard, and Emperor Showa especially was a well-known Francophile, enjoying food from La Tour d'Argent, to the point where the only branch of that famous restaurant exists in Tokyo.