Gastronomy  An interview with Guy Martin, chef and presenter of Epicerie fine, terroirs gourmands
10/10/201917:31 TV5MONDE

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Michelin-star chef and owner of the restaurant Le Grand Véfour in Paris, Guy Martin uses his television show to introduce viewers to the French terroir, its products, and those who make them. Whether floating gardens in Amiens, calvados in Normandy, or edible plants in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, get ready to discover the very best of French gastronomic culture.
 
Interview with presenter and chef Guy Martin.

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You created the Epicerie Fine television show in 2011. What message did you want to send?
 
I care deeply about promoting our farmers and growers, and encouraging them in their work. Each episode presents products from a specific region such as Beaufort cheese, made in Savoie with milk from three particular cow breeds in a restricted number of villages. In the second part of the show, I present a recipe based on one of the products covered. It has to be easy enough to make at home, but still with a chef’s flair!
 
We also promote the regions’ heritage sites, tourist attractions, and even philosophies through their exciting products! With delicacies such as Tomme d’Abondance and Bleu de Haute-Maurienne, you can taste the very history and culture of a region through the produce from its terroir.

 

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How do you define terroir?
 
In the Champagne region there is a variety of gray shallot that is planted according to the seasons and the alignment of the planets by farmers who know nature and how to read its signs. That’s terroir: A product, nature, and a farmer. In France, the concept is defined through geographical limits and regulated production. You will only ever find pre-salted lamb in regions that specialize in pre-salting. Bresse chickens have to be raised according to strict criteria, and only in Bresse. This type of agriculture is segmented into high-quality products made in limited quantities. And it also offers a certain approach and lifestyle for the farmers who follow it.

 

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What do you think the future holds for the French terroir?
 
I am very optimistic! I think it has a bright future ahead. Organic agriculture is a big talking point, and the way we eat has become a very current topic. After the war, we entered an era of mass production with no concern for product quality. But over the last few years, we have realized many of our products have a unique taste.
 
France could never compete with wheat grown in Eastern Europe, but we can still use our ancient varieties of wheat to make bread, as we have seen in the southwest. The future is already happening today with a return to traditions. Those who know France are aware it is tiny compared to the United States, but it also has a very diverse climate and an extensive skillset.

 

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From eel smokers to old-time farmers, many of the professions and traditional practices you showcase in Epicerie Fine are disappearing. What is your opinion on this change?
 
Fortunately there are young people, both men and women, who are returning to these challenging professions. We recently met a former engineer who had grown tired of city life and had taken over his grandfather’s goat farm. These are courageous decisions, and people are teaching themselves.

 
Does the show have an international following?

After our show about olive oil in the valley of Les Baux-de-Provence, some American viewers came to visit the producers. Others send me messages on social media to say they meet up every week to watch the show together. Epicerie Fine is also supposed to entice an international audience, promoting a beautiful image of France and its regions.

 
The show has been running since 2011. Do you still have subjects to cover and things to discover?
 
We still have so much to cover! Lots of things are changing, and we have to stay up to date with new developments. For example, some farmers are trying to produce ancient varieties of apples, while others are starting to adopt new ways of raising pigs. There are new initiatives all the time!

 

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Among the ten seasons of Epicerie Fine, what has been your best memory?
 
The day the network gave me the green light! I had wanted to launch this show for a long time, and without the support of the TV5 directors, it would never have been possible.
 
Text by: Juliette Démas
Translation by: Alexander Uff from French
 

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