McDonald's World Cup win has French seething

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The Independent Online
THE best-known names in French cooking yesterday basted and grilled the choice of McDonald's as the "official restaurant" of the World Cup in France. "It has been known from the time of the Emperor Vespasian that money has no smell; thanks to the World Cup, we also know that it has no taste," thundered a joint declaration by the five associations which represent French chefs and restaurants. (Since it is a rare event for these bodies to agree on anything, the common declaration was, in itself, a sign of just how annoyed they are.)

The depressing truth is that the French World Cup will have, officially, little French flavour. McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Snickers and Anheuser Busch (brewers of Budweiser) figure among the 12 "official partners" of the competition, which begins on Wednesday.

The list includes no representatives of the French food and drink industry, despite its international renown. The "partners" were chosen by the world football body, Fifa, months ago, on the basis of the size of their sponsorship bids.

"We have no problem about McDonald's being associated with the competition," said Fernand Mischler, president of the Union Francaise de la Cuisine. "We strongly object to McDonald's being named as the 'official restaurant' of the French World Cup. What are our visitors supposed to think? That hamburgers and ketchup are the true representatives of French cooking. It is outrageous and absurd."

The five organisations, representing everyone from Haute Cuisine chefs to young bistro-owners, said the football authorities could have negotiated some kind of deal with French restaurants "in all their diversity". Instead they chose the "simple and profitable" route of dealing with McDonald's, the global representative of "hamburger imperialism".

But do fast-food and sport not go together like boots and laces? Not a bit of it, protested Mr Mischler, who runs the celebrated restaurant, L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc, near Strasbourg. "If a footballer, or even a supporter, eats McDonald's every day, he will not keep going to the end of the World Cup. Better that they should go to a little restaurant and take the Plat du Jour at 45 francs (pounds 4.50)."