One of the joys of the business that I’m in is the opportunity that I have to work with amazing artisans and artists who ply their trades with their hands. As we push our children harder and harder to intellectual pursuits, are we pushing them away from other work that might be more meaningful to them? Who will bake our break and build our homes, sew our clothes and decorate our walls? These manual pursuits, at least in the US, seem more and more neglected, even discouraged, and yet they are the foundation of all society. While the intellect may serve to elevate society, if it doesn’t have a foundation then where will we be?
In France, these vocational trades are still honored and revered. Nearly a century ago the French created a competition, the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (how’s your French?….the Best ‘Maker’ in France), to preserve and uplift over 100 artisan trades from embroidery and jewelry making to baking, butchering and tending bar. The competition is held every four years, and we are smack in the middle of the current competition. Entries were accepted through September of 2013. Competition is underway now to determine the semi-finalists in each category who will compete in 2015 for the title of MOF. Each semi-finalist is judged solely on their own merits and not against the other semi-finalists, and so there is no limit to the number of MOF titles that can be bestowed. Once designated an MOF, the appellation follows the winner throughout his or her career and life and expects the victors to continue to learn and grow within their field in a constant search for perfection.
In 2009 ‘Kings of Pastry‘ was released, a movie that carried us through the pastry world of the 2007 Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. In order to succeed in this competition and earn the acclaim within their field that follows, the competitors spend up to two years practicing and honing their skills. Marriages dissolve, friendships are lost and spirits are broken in the process. But to win the title of MOF is to receive the absolute highest commendation, promoting both the individual and the field in which they practice. This is the foundation on which intellect may soar…and this is one area where the world should be looking to France for direction.
Rant over….now go watch the movie! It’s wonderful. And here are a few more movies on food that I recommend…