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I was juror of the pie championship

When suddenly, in your mailbox, appears an invitation that can change your destiny or, at the very least, your cholesterol level. “We are pleased to invite you as a member of the jury to the European selection event for the world pie-crust championship in Paris on November 8, 2022.” Golden border, presence of barons of French gastronomy (Eric Fréchon, Eric Briffard…), prestigious sponsors (like Mumm champagnes): the proposal seems far too elaborate for a schoolboy joke.

And this is how we find ourselves wandering under the moldings of the Hôtel Bristol, in Paris, in search of the room where the competition takes place. With a bunch of questions swirling around in my head. What could a pie championship consist of? How is it that this championship attracts the attention of chefs and the media? And why have so many competitions been created around dishes deemed cheesy just a few years ago? Because following the pie crust championship, inaugurated in 2009, came those of hare à la royale (2016), egg in poached wine (2018), or celery remoulade (2022).

In an article for the weekly Teleramathe author and food critic Estérelle Payany offers a first explanation. She argues that this resurgence of “nutty contest” serves not only to improve the image of the dishes, but also to unite and enhance the community of chefs and specialized journalists, each benefiting from the prestige of the others.

The twenty jurors must decide between the candidate blocks for qualification for the world final.

This between-oneself is confirmed when one enters the place where the test is held. In the center of a vast room with an old-fashioned charm mixing flowery carpet, puffy chandelier and bucolic frescoes, two rows of five tables, covered with fir green velvet, are lined up as if for a test (ultra-chic version) of the baccalaureate. But before the start of the competition, the atmosphere is more like recreation. In a playful hubbub, the members of the jury and the VIPs, most of them invited by the sponsors, give kisses and good words: in the gratin of great gastronomy and high charcuterie, everyone or almost everyone knows each other.

We see the chefs Pierre Sang and Stéphanie Le Quellec (whose spouse, David, participated twice in the competition as a candidate). But we also recognize a less expected juror: Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Assumed bon vivant, member of the very closed Club des Cent (exclusively male, bringing together lovers of good food), the former Prime Minister will be solemnly consecrated that day “Knight of the pâté-crust brotherhood” (initiates prefer the expression “pie-crust” to “pie-crust”).

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