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Nice locals defend cuisine from controversial chef

A Nice collective has defended Niçoise cuisine from “non-purist influences” after a local chef controversially added non-traditional ingredients to a “pan bagnat”.

Local chef Thierry Marx sparked controversy after it emerged he was adding honey chicken, ham, and mozzarella cheese to the city's sandwich recipe, and labelling the creation as a traditional “pan bagnat” in a shop in the Provence-Côte d’Azur city’s airport.

In response, local man Franck Viano posted an impassioned defence of the city’s food, and set up a “Collective” Facebook Page to promote his cause, attracting over 200 supporters in recent days.

Viano, who is a local food educator and organiser of cooking competitions in the city, is currently working on an application to have Nice cuisine recognised as part of the city’s cultural heritage by Unesco.

He turned to social media after hearing about Marx’s non-traditional sandwiches, and discovered that the law would not allow him to ask for an “appellation” to protect such local recipes.

An “appellation” refers to “appellation d origine contrôlée (AOC)”, the legal protection given to foods and produce from local areas (for example, Comté cheese, from Franche-Comté). It allows locals to protect a given product’s name, ensure its provenance, and stop other people from claiming their produce as such.

In the absence of the availability of such an appellation, Viano took to social media to publish what he calls the “purist” recipes of Nice.

This includes a detailed explanation of how to make the perfect “pan bagnat”.

It has since emerged that after pressure from the group, chef Marx is to change the name of his dish, and will no longer sell it under the traditional “pan bagnat” label.

Yet, Viano has dispelled claims that he is blocking normal culinary creativity.

Speaking to regaional TV station France 3, he said: “We are not Ayatollahs. Niçoise cuisine must continue to develop, but we must not touch recipes that are written down and well-known.”

According to Viano, the perfect “pan bagnat” comprises nothing more, and nothing less, than the following ingredients:

  • A small round loaf of bread no bigger than 20cm wide
  • Three tomatoes
  • Some radish
  • Some févettes (young tender broad beans)
  • Two little provançal 'poivrade' artichokes
  • Two small spring onions
  • One small celery stick
  • One green pepper
  • One hard-boiled egg
  • One anchovy fillet
  • Half a tin of tuna in olive oil
  • Some black Nice olives
  • Basil leaves
  • Salt, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil.

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