For those outside of France, the hospitality industry, or both, the initials MOF may not ring a bell, but those three letters hold an incredible amount of significance. To be a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” or "Best Craftsman of France" as you'll soon discover, is a very prestigious title indeed. Here's how it happens.
The history behind the title
The “Meilleur Ouvrier de France”competition was created in France in 1924 with the objective to revive the dwindling number of traditional craftsmen in France and recognize those who represent “high qualification in the exercise of a professional activity in the craft, commercial, service, industrial or agricultural.”
The craftsmanship exhibition has been held every three to four years and showcases different professions including florists, carpenters, butchers, jewelry makers, and of course pastry chefs, to name just a few. Along with the title, winners receive a medal and state diploma.
“The MOF title is really unique. It carries an important historical legacy and recognizes work approaching perfection. It is a true honor to receive recognition for one's peers and country. Today, I proudly represent and further with my best abilities the values of professional excellence, innovation and transmission.” explains Meilleur Ouvrier de France Chef Christian Segui
What is the competition about?
The MOF competition is a fierce one, requiring many months, sometimes years, of intense preparation. It aims to evaluate the dexterity, knowledge of modern and traditional techniques, know-how and creativity of candidates representing over 200 different professions, with artisans representing 16 industries as far-flung and diverse as hospitality, textiles, floral design, leatherworking, and ceramics. Within each category there are several smaller groups representing different specialties.
Technically, any French citizen 23 years or older who pays the 60-euro entrance fee can compete, but few have the preparation and dedication necessary to make a serious bid for the title. A particularity of the competition is the absence of podium. Indeed, the MOF title is awarded based on the average marks obtained in the tests, so there may well be several winners or none, if no one has reached the required score to become a laureate.
Less than 10,000 people have ever won the right to call themselves one of the Best Craftsmen in France. MOF winners retain their title for life. Many choose to join the National Society of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a sort of alumni society for winners. The title is taken so seriously that sporting such a collar fraudulently is a crime punishable by prison-time.
“The MOF competition and its preparation are definitely in my top lifetime memories. The hours of preparation, the stress of the competition, the recognition for all the work and commitment, have alla All has changed me forever. I have pushed myself beyond what I imagined possible and it certainly contributed in making me a better professional.” continues Meilleur Ouvrier de France Chef Thomas Marie
The culinary connection
Though the hospitality industry is just one of many sectors participating in the MOF competition, the chef and pastry chef categories have become more widely publicized in recent years. MOF chefs wear have the designation emblazoned on their chef coats via a tri-colored collar and the MOF logo, serving as a very visible representation of the fact that they've achieved a fantastically high level of excellence. If you see a date below the MOF logo, that's the year he or she won the MOF title.
Some of the most celebrated and respected chefs and hospitality professionals in the world are MOF winners. But with great recognition comes great responsibility: each MOF is expected to further their profession and guide the next generation of craftsmen in their search of not only excellence but also innovation. They're also tasked with continually expanding their own professional repertoire, learning new techniques and bettering themselves despite the accolades they've already collected.
“Being a MOF undeniably implies responsibility and one of my favorite may well be passing on the passion and art to the next generation. My role at EHL plays an important part in this and I am thrilled every time I see students’ eyes light up when accomplishing something they never thought they were capable of.” concludes Meilleur Ouvrier de France Chef Fabien Pairon
To be declared one of the Best Craftsmen in France is to carry on tradition and protect it with great care, and that's just what these laudable visionaries do.