Chirac Comments Spark Flap over British Food

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"You can't trust people who cook as badly as that," French President Jacques Chirac reputedly said of the British. But Chirac and other leaders will feast on Scottish-French cuisine at the G8 summit in Scotland. Ranald MacDonald, managing director of London's Boisdale restaurant — which specializes in Scottish-French cuisine — responds to Chirac's comments.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This morning's Olympic news has revived the rivalry between two great cities, London and Paris, as if that rivalry needed any help. A few days ago, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that French president Jacques Chirac declared the following: `You cannot trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it's the country with the worst food.' He was referring to Britain. Mr. Chirac and others are going to be dining in Scotland this week with Prime Minister Tony Blair as the host of the G8 Summit. They'll be feasting on the cuisine of Chef Andrew Fairlie, whose culinary skills are described as unashamedly French but with a Scottish twist. Ranald MacDonald is managing director of the Boisdale restaurant in London, which specializes in Scottish French cuisine.

Ranald MacDonald, welcome to the program. And what is Scottish French food?

Mr. RANALD MacDONALD (Managing Director, Boisdale Restaurant): We use Scottish ingredients. And Scotland is the world's finest larder in terms of ingredients. We have the finest shellfish, salmon, game in terms of venison, and we also have the finest beef and lamb in the world. So we have the finest ingredients, which we cook in the traditional way according to old Scottish recipes. But there is a strong French influence, as there has been on all international cuisine.

CHADWICK: How do you feel about these remarks by Mr. Chirac? And what are people in the restaurant saying there?

Mr. MacDONALD: I think it just reflects the fact that you can't trust the French, and in particular the French government. And Chirac is ridiculous. And he's probably--the French, I think, are rather jealous of the fact that London is regarded by the rest of the world as the food capital of the world.

CHADWICK: You all had the world's most highly rated restaurants, I think, in some collection that came out in the last year.

Mr. MacDONALD: Yep. It's fair to say that we certainly have one of the world's greatest collections of restaurants, if not the greatest.

CHADWICK: If you had all these world leaders coming, what would you suggest should be on the menu? I think Mr. Schroeder of Germany is hoping for a good steak.

Mr. MacDONALD: I think you'd probably start with some wild Scottish lake salmon. You then might have some sea scallops. Some purebred Highland beef would be superb, aged for four weeks, maybe with a bit of light, creamy, intense chanterelle mushroom sauce. And then maybe some Scottish raspberries, 'cause we forget that Scotland produces the finest berry fruit in the world, in particular raspberries.

CHADWICK: Let me just note, I've looked online at the menu of your own restaurant there. There are many very interesting things that look appetizing. There's this dish here that I think would be a little difficult for many people in this country--offal of the day. Offal is--well, it's the edible organ.

Mr. MacDONALD: Exactly.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

Mr. MacDONALD: That's the organs of the animals that we eat. So--we also serve liver, kidneys, brains and whatever else the chef can get his hands on.

CHADWICK: And what is the offal of the day today?

Mr. MacDONALD: Offal of the day today is lamb sweetbread...

CHADWICK: Ah.

Mr. MacDONALD: ...with chanterelle mushrooms, which is delicious--the sort of thing that Mr. Chirac would probably rather enjoy, actually.

CHADWICK: Ranald MacDonald, managing director of the Boisdale restaurant in London.

Ranald, thank you for speaking with us.

Mr. MacDONALD; Pleasure.

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