Among the profusion of new Cités de la Gastronomie, Goût de France dinners, Unesco repas gastronomiques and the like, you might think the last thing France needs is yet another new foodie concept – a valley.
Especially since the swathe of territory it consists of, stretching from Burgundy via the vineyard-bordered Rhône and Lyon into Provence, is already world-famous for food and wine. But four years ago somebody decided otherwise and the cogwheels of regional, departmental and municipal politics ground into motion.
The Vallée de la Gastronomie route, recently launched packages a roster of chefs, winemakers and food producers, shops, markets and, above all, the new tourism buzzword, ‘experiences’. So, in Dijon you don’t just taste fine Burgundies, you do so at the top of the extraordinary Gothic tower of Philippe le Bon, in Vienne you take a guided shopping tour of France’s second-biggest market before picnicking on your purchases in a private café area, and so on.
My kind of experience tends to involve a restaurant, me attablé (sitting) in it, and a kitchen brigade producing with French military precision delicious dishes to dispatch in my direction. At the southern end of the Vallée, this is offered by Marseille star Gérald Passédat, third-generation proprietor of the luxurious seafront Petit Nice, who cooks you his famous deconstructed bouillabaisse and takes you foraging through the craggy Mediterranean-lapped mini-fjords of the Calanques for oursins (sea urchins) and obscure rockfish.
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