EHL Insights
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Culinary Arts
4 min read

Q : What is Bistronomy?

If you’re at all familiar with the food world, you’ve probably heard of gastronomy and bistros. Put them together and you have bistronomy. This idea has turned into a food movement that has spread throughout France.

Have you experienced this culinary trend yet? Perhaps you have without even knowing it. Let’s take a look at what exactly bistronomy is, its origin and its main features. Also, we’ll explore the possible future of the movement.

Origins and history of Bistronomy

Bistronomy has actually been around since the 1990s. It was started by chef Yves Camdeborde, who appreciated fine cuisine but not the atmosphere and prices of the restaurants it was served in. To create something more to his preferences, he opened his own restaurant that combined fine food with a more open, casual and friendly atmosphere. Other restaurants followed this lead of serving high-level meals at lower prices in a more relaxed environment.

Yet the cuisine of bistronomy itself is also a combination, using bistro foods and dishes with gastronomic cooking methods. People get the popular and traditional dishes they like with simple and seasonal ingredients, yet the dishes are elevated by high-level cooking techniques.

Just as bistronomy combines different components of cuisine, the name is a combination of bistro and gastronomy. While Camdeborde is the one who created the type of cuisine, it was named by Sebastien Demorand, a food critic and journalist, in the early 2000s.

From the beginning of bistronomy until today, it has influenced the larger dining and food industries. For example, its influence has helped farmers by using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, and it has made fine dining accessible and affordable so more people can experience it.

Some people say that chefs have followed the idea of bistronomy long before Camdeborde, by making fine food available to everyone. But these chefs continued to follow traditional restaurant ideals set by Michelin and to see Michelin stars as their career goal.

What is different about the bistronomy movement is that it goes against the traditional restaurant route. These chefs generally don’t strive to achieve Michelin stars and often rebel against the establishment. Instead, they say they have freedom in their restaurants, where they create the types of dishes they want. Also, the focus is on the customer’s experience rather than on how great a restaurant is.

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What are the key components of Bistronomy?

What factors do you need to create bistronomy? It has certain components that make it up. These tend to include:

  • Classic, traditional dishes made into new versions that use the technique and order of fine dining
  • Local, seasonal ingredients that support independent farms
  • The chef’s creativity and specialty
  • Creative freedom instead of following Michelin rules
  • A friendly, relaxed restaurant atmosphere
  • Smaller restaurants
  • A simpler restaurant set-up that may feature fewer wait staff, no pastry chefs and no tablecloths
  • A focus on the customer instead of the restaurant
  • Lower prices created by simple ingredients, uncomplicated restaurants and unique locations

You’ll find simplicity in these eateries. The food is simple and the atmosphere is relaxed. Yet the taste of the food is superb, and you gain friendliness and warmth as you dine.

While these key components remain the same, you’ll find that bistronomy doesn’t necessarily look alike from one restaurant to the next. Over time, many chefs have taken the idea and made it their own. They’ve created their own specialties using the idea, so you might find a different atmosphere and new twists on traditional meals depending on where you go to enjoy this cuisine.

The affordable price is a very important component of bistronomy. In Paris, the high prices of meals at Michelin-star restaurants left many people unable to afford a fine dining meal. Bistronomy changed this, bringing delicious food made with gourmet techniques to everyone. It allows for a love of food and an enjoyment of the experience, rather than excluding most people. Even if you are a student, you could afford a meal at an establishment like this.

What will Bistronomy look like in the future?

There are signs of what bistronomy is becoming and how it could move forward into the future. Here are some ideas:

  • In time, top chefs have used the bistronomy idea for their own casual restaurants. They often create this type in addition to having a fine dining, Michelin-star restaurant. This is likely to continue, as you can already find new chefs following the trend.
  • Younger chefs are embracing the idea of bistronomy, as it allows them to follow their own culinary ideas and influences. They don’t have to try to follow the rules of French cuisine or try to earn Michelin stars. They can pursue their own paths in the restaurant world through this type of restaurant and cuisine.
  • Bistronomy is based on French cuisine or some version of it. Yet it’s likely that this idea will spread around the world. This makes sense, as it promotes local ingredients and provides quality dining at a lower price for everyone to enjoy.
  • You can find a fusion of French food with cuisine from other parts of the world or ethnic food made with the bistronomy style. These trends are likely to continue as people from different places incorporate bistronomy into their cuisine. For example, the Paris restaurant Abri offers Japanese dishes with a bistronomy style.
  • Another trend is to have a surprise menu with chef-created dishes, so part of the experience is to figure out what you’re eating and the ingredients. Or another eatery might have you choose your beverage and have the chef prepare a meal that pairs with it.
  • While bistronomy tends to go against Michelin, which these chefs tend to find limiting, some think that bistronomy restaurants should be recognized by Michelin. Many bistronomy chefs hope for a Michelin star at some point. It’s possible that you will see this type of recognition in the future, as this trend is more respected and revered.
  • This movement faces a problem. Many of the restaurants have become so popular that the difficulty of getting a reservation goes against the idea of making food accessible to everyone. This problem may continue and take away from what was so good about the movement. Or it's possible that the expansion of bistronomy will provide more options, so it becomes easier to reserve a seat and have the experience.

Bistronomy is an exciting path to consider if you are interested in becoming a chef, owning or managing a restaurant, or providing excellent customer service in one. This type of setting allows those creating the food to use their own skills, influences and passion. It also allows those in the front of the restaurant to interact with guests in a friendlier, warmer way than many fine dining establishments.

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