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France’s top chefs used to dismiss the fast-food industry as a pariah in the world of gastronomy and an insult to their lofty ideals. Now they are themselves making take-away pizzas.
In what may go down as one of the greatest publicity coups in the 60-year history of fast food, La Boîte à Pizza — France’s second-biggest chain — has enrolled four Michelin-starred chefs to produce its new recipes.
Each will create two pizzas for the group, which has 136 outlets, mainly in France — helping to demolish the final barrier between la grande gastronomie and la restauration rapide.
The first — a Gorgonzola, lardon, balsamic caramel, garden rocket and walnut pizza — went on sale last week after the recipe was devised by Mauro Colagreco, who was named Cook of the Year by the prestigious GaultMillau guide in 2009.
“It was a fun thing to do, especially as I am of Italian origin,” said the chef, whose restaurant, Le Mirazur on the French Riviera, is celebrated for the herbs and flowers he grows in his garden and serves in his dishes. “It’s not something I’d do all the time but as a once off, it was enjoyable.”
He said he had no qualms about working for a fast-food chain. “Fine cuisine should be for everyone, and not just for an elite. The truth is that fast food is changing and opening up to other markets and we cooks have to evolve as well. We cannot stay the same and not change for ever.”
Mr Lallement said he expected to sell about 2,000 pizzas des grands chefs a day — out of total sales of about 25,000 a day. They are priced at €16.50 (£14.50).
“In the past, chefs didn’t want to have any thing to do with the fast-food business and people used to smile when I talked about making gourmet pizzas,” said Mr Lallement. “Today, chefs are happy to play around with the idea.”