Meilleurs Ouvriers de France – Best Craftsmanship in France

Meilleurs Ouvriers de France – Best Craftsmanship in France
Hidden amongst the luxurious bustle of Parisian culture, where artisanship has become an art form, you’ll find the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF).  Recognizable only by their red, white and blue collars, this prestigious group represents over 162 creative arts disciplines devoted to their craft in France, including cheese makers, florists, textile designers, chefs, leather crafters, graphic designers and jewelers. The history of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France began in 1924 as a response to a crisis in the manual professions. A national competition invited workers to compete to become the best in their field.  Today, this award of excellence has been institutionalized and is recognized as a third level degree by the French Ministry of Labor.  Medals are awarded at the Sorbonne, followed by a ceremony at the Élysée Palace in the presence of the President of the French Republic. This strenuous competition can take months and often years of preparation. Each candidate is given a certain amount of time and basic materials in order to create a few masterpieces.  In the field of the culinary arts, for example, the documentary, The Kings of Pastry, follows one pastry chef, in particular, through the grueling process to become the top in his field. Technical skills and innovation combined with an esthetic sense and respect to tradition – and the ever watchful clock – make this film a heartbreakingly nail biting experience.  The winning candidates hold their titles for life and are held in the highest regard around the world.  Meilleurs Ouvriers de France winners have worked on such diverse projects as the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in New York and the windows in the Yamoussoukro Basilica in the Ivory Coast. As representatives of their métier, un Meilleur de Ouvrier, is required to pass his knowledge on to future generations.  MOF currently has 4,000 members, 200 of which are based in Paris.  You can visit some of these unique and inspiring craftsmen while in Paris – Boulangerie Morieux, 35 rue de Aguesseau, Boulogne-Billancourt, Franck Kestener, 7 rue Gay-Lussac, 5th Arronndissement, Jacques Torres, 63 rue Saint-Louis l’Isle and la Fromagerie de Auteuils, in the 16th arrondissement.

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Sue Aran lives in the Gers department of southwest France. She is the owner of French Country Adventures, which provides private, personally-guided, small-group food & wine adventures into Gascony, the Pays Basque and Provence. She writes a monthly blog about her life in France and is a contributor to Bonjour Paris and France Today magazines.