As it turns out, a lot of those Parisian cafés luring in tourists for an authentic experience are serving food prepared elsewhere and frozen. Edward Cody reports in the Washington Post,
In a survey conducted for the National Union of Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe Operators, a third of French restaurants acknowledged serving such factory-frozen products to clients. Restaurant owners estimated that the real number is substantially higher, as many chefs were embarrassed to admit the short cuts that, in effect, hoodwink their customers.
Why does this not surprise me? I remember as a kid buying a souvenir seashell in the Bahamas and discovering it was made in China. In any event, for many restaurant owners, it’s about the bottom line:
A chunk of tuna cooked Provencal style with an attractive ratatouille on the side, for instance, can be bought in a restaurant-supply factory for $4, stored in the freezer indefinitely and sold to a diner for $17 after three minutes in the microwave, according to a report in Marianne magazine. A chocolate eclair for dessert goes for 60 cents at the factory and lands on a restaurant table for a profit of several hundred percent.
Needless to say, efforts are being made to classify restaurants as authentic and featuring house-made products while cafés, brasseries, and inns would be able to carry pre-made and reheated foods without the whiff of fraudulence.
“In the café” by Gaetano de Las Heras (1903)