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A glimpse of Kunming’s French dinner table

Updated:2019-07-25 18:12:00   Yunnan Daily

Every afternoon, crowds of young Western customers would get together at À Table, a French bakery and café not far from the Cuihu Park in central Kunming. Croissant, French sandwich and baguette are among the best sellers of this restaurant.

Getting up around 7 a.m., Vincent, the owner of À Table, only prepares 20 baguettes each day, in order to make sure that every loaf that comes onto customers’ tables is as hot and fresh as it can be. “What I want to present is an authentic flavor which can be compared with any baked bread of France a century ago,” Vincent said. 

As a traditional and meticulous Frenchman, Vincent always keeps an eye on those details. “He fell in love with this old house when he saw it for the first time,” said Haiya, Vincent’s Chinese wife. “These brick flooring tiles and wooden walls combine perfectly with our desserts and coffee.”

“I enjoy my life in Yunnan very much,” said Vincent. And he is definitely not the only person that feels this way. In fact, quite a few French come to settle down on this land not merely because of its congenial climate, but the special historical and cultural tie between Yunnan and their homeland.

Yunnan, as a neighbor of Southeast Asia, used to be a popular destination for French adventurers back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many French readers thus have read about how fascinating Yunnan was via their reports and diaries.

A number of cultural similarities that Yunnan shares with France, such as the cultures of coffee and mushroom eating, are another factor which keeps enchanting the French nationals, just like Vincent.

It’s worth mentioning that the family of Vincent has a restaurant in France and what’s behind it is a forest rich in mushrooms. “Kunming is very similar to my hometown in this regard, and you can find various types of mushrooms within only half an hour’s drive,” he told us. “Bolete and Ganbajun are two of my favorite mushrooms in Yunnan.”

Other Yunnan-based French enjoy the province as much as Vincent does. While some of them run restaurants and hostels around tourist hubs or commercial districts, others prefer to live a “hermit” life in remote and mountainous areas where they can grow grapes, raspberries and a lot more farm products. “Those Raspberries topped on my cakes are all from their gardens,” Vincent told us.

À Table, meaning “the meal is ready” in French, now has become a major gathering place for the French community in Kunming, and anything in relation to Yunnan and France seems to be able to evoke customers’ interest here. Li Kunwu, for example, is a name frequently mentioned. As a Kunming-born comic writer, he is well-known for his work “Une vie chinoise” (translated as “A Chinese Life”) which is familiar to French comic readers. 

Now, Vincent can’t wait to brand his French family cooking among local Kunming citizens. “French Cooking is not always fancy and costly. A meal of about 15 Euros would also allow you to enjoy an unforgettable dining experience,” said Vincent. “I hope that food exchange could bring Yunnan and France closer than ever.”

Reporting by Zhang Wenge, trans-editing by Wang Jingzhong

Keywords:   Kunming French dinner