The Slow Food movement for sustainable cuisine on Monday chqllenged a call for French cuisine to be added to UNESCO's world heritage list. It was unfair to try to rank world cuisines, it said.
"Why should French gastronomy be considered better than any other?" asked Carlo Petrini, head of the influential Italian-based movement which promotes high-quality, local food as a remedy to fast-food culture.
Advertisement"To make gastronomy part of world heritage is an excellent idea, but all countries should do so, not just France!" he said in response to the French plan, announced by President Nicolas Sarkozy at the weekend.
"There is no question that France contributed in an extraordinary fashion to creating high-level gastronomy," Petrini said. "But we do not believe in creating hierarchies between gastronomies.
"Every nation has its gastronomical language, closely linked to its own culture and all those culinary traditions need to be preserved."
In 2006, a group of top French chefs and academics set up a group to press for the recognition of French gastronomy by UNESCO. The group includes famed French chefs such as Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse and Michel Guerard.
Sarkozy told delegates at an agriculture fair at the weekend that France would lobby for its cuisine to be added to UNESCO's list of cultural treasures, calling it "the best gastronomy in the world."
The French bid will presented to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO next year, with a verdict due in in 2010.
UNESCO started its list of "intangible" cultural treasures such as dance, carnival or other rituals in 2003.
In 2005, a UNESCO jury including several French members turned down a request by Mexico to have its culinary tradition recognised, Petrini noted.
According to the French group set up to defend the bid, Italy intends to file a similar motion.
But French chef Andre Daguin, head of the UMIH catering federation, argued that "France is only the country with the most high-quality food produce and in sufficient quantity."
For Michelin-starred chef Gerard Cagna, UNESCO's recognition would "allow us to keep alive a fundamental part of our culture."
Many in French haute cuisine are still stinging from a blow delivered in 2003, when the New York Times ruled that Spain had overtaken its gallic neighbour as the epicentre of the gourmet world.
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