Several years ago, I got the crazy idea in my head that casual dining restaurants should start serving pot a feu, tarte tatin and macrons. I mentioned this, casually, to some R&D restaurant chain chefs, and they all laughed and told me that I should not let my trip to Paris (back in April ’08) go to my head. So I “let it go,” and went back to demoing teriyaki chicken legs and chipotle BBQ sauce.

But guess what? Here we are in 2009, and I get to say “I told you so”! (And please let me say it, I don’t get to say it very often!) French food really is making a comeback, and there have been quite a few mentions of it in the news!

Ironically, classic, high-end French cuisine is on the decline in France. In June, author Michael Steinberg released his book on the decline of classic French food (in France) in “Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine and the End of France.” He notes that many young French chefs are serving up bistro food at great, affordable prices and without the hovering entourage of waiters, wine stewards and uptight staff. There are several reasons why this shift is taking place, including working families who no longer have time to cook those decadent meals at home. And all over France, McDonald’s units are replacing Michelin-starred restaurants faster than you can say “Royal With Cheese.”

But French food in America is a different story. Back in Dec. 2008, Flavor & the Menu tapped a French cuisine comeback in the form of approachable and affordable bistro food. And what about the new Chicago French Market that just opened today! This new European-inspired marketplace in the Ogilvie Transportation Center’s commuter concourse provides people with “permanent, convenient and personal access to local artisans and purveyors.”

I was once told by an anonymous chain chef that “pioneers get the arrows and settlers get the land.” The pioneers have come and gone and left behind some great opportunities for chains to start putting affordable bistro-style French food on the menu. You can read more on technical strategies and solutions in my recent article on this very subject

About Rachel Zemser