When French chef Pierre Gagnaire claimed to have created the world’s first entirely synthetic gourmet dish with molecular cooking, I feel certain that at least one person, Nigella Lawson, English food writer, journalist and broadcaster, was not at all impressed.
Lawson, daughter of Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Vanessa Salmon, whose family owned J. Lyons and Co., a British restaurant-chain, food-manufacturing, and hotel conglomerate, criticized French foamy sauces, plate decoration and egotistical chefs.
The Telegraph notes that when speaking at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Lawson told an audience she had written her latest book, Nigellissima, about Italian food after visiting Italy as a student because it was not France.
“My parents were great francophiles, and my father now lives in France,” she said. “If I want to annoy him, I’ll say, ‘Oh, France, isn’t it that irritating country you have to drive through to get to Italy?’ But I don’t have anything against France.”
Lawson added, “I think it was probably an Italian who said, ‘Italian cooking draws attention to the food and French cooking draws attention to the cook’, and there is some truth in that. I know I’m sounding anti-French and I’m not.”
Ironically Lawson is neither a trained chef or cook.
After commenting that her favorite snack was baguette with blue cheese, Lawson remarked, “I didn’t say the French weren’t good at eating. But I can’t do all the foamy sauces they go in for these days, or all the plate decoration. But the bread and butter, I’ll give them that.”
But Lawson finally admits that “you only have to have a coffee éclair to know you can’t beat French cooking at its best.”
Multi Michelin Star and award winning French chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli, whose British restaurants have twice been awarded a Michelin star, was unrestrained when responding to Lawson’s comments on French cuisine.
“Having witnessed her for the last 30 years of my life, it’s rather amazing for someone who has looked well over 60 for more than two thirds of her life from behind, and who has scavenged a big part of her starting life on mostly amazing French basic cooking,” he told The Times.
“She is obviously too busy making silly comparisons with no sense of respect towards where she got a big part of her learning from.
“And the most important thing is she is not even capable of supporting her own native cuisine, farming and agriculture, especially in this time of recession. In her position, she should fully use her energy to support British cooking.”
Besides her publicly disclosed disdain for French cooking, Lawson also doesn’t think too highly of bears. In 2008, Lawson advocated wearing fur, and remarked that she would love to kill a bear and then wear it.
In 2010, Lawson was featured as one of the three judges on the special battle of Iron Chef America, titled “The Super Chef Battle.”