Topaz Restaurant

Good France and the joie de vivre

In black coats and bow ties they came to celebrate good food, good wine, good friendship and good living.

The French call it joie de vivre, or the joy of living, and across the globe 1,700 chefs and thousands of smartly coiffed diners joined the day of Gout de France to revel in the French lifestyle. In Cambodia, diners gathered at Topaz and other French eateries in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

The celebration, known as Good France in English, is a modern-day interpretation of an age-old culinary legend.

Georges Auguste Escoffier was arguably the greatest French chef of the 20th century. A writer and restaurateur, Escoffier, among other things, codified the cooking techniques of French restaurants and defined the five mother sauces. In 1903 he published Le Guide Culinaire, a text and cookbook that would define French cuisine. The 943-page volume covered recipes, cooking techniques and kitchen management. Escoffier’s tomb is widely considered the bible of French gastronomy, and its import still reverberates through kitchens around the globe today.

A keen evangelist of French culinary traditions, Escoffier also worked passionately to promote French cuisine abroad. In 1912 he created Les Dîners d’Épicure, or Epicurean Diners. Restaurants across several countries participated, each serving a single menu created by the master himself.

It is the spirit of Escoffier’s Dîners d’Épicure that resonates through the modern-day Good France event. Alain Ducasse, the renowned Monégasque chef and owner of the prestigious Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester in London, rekindled the idea in 2015. This year’s event was held March 21.

Few events excite a chef like a global culinary celebration. At Topaz, Chef Sopheak Pov has come to relish the annual dinner. The theme, as directed by the Good France Board of Chefs, is healthy, innovative and responsible cuisine. Dishes should be prepared from seasonal, local produce and contain healthy levels of salts, sugars and fats. Further, dishes should be available for all, from bistro to gourmet dining. Everything ­— from food to wine to service to setting — should reflect the idea of French culinary excellence.

Chef Sopheak Pov’s menu served Topaz and Good France well.

The evening began with plenty of wine and Duval Leroy champagne. Wait staff, one server per guest, fanned out across the dining room and circled each table, filling crystal champagne flutes in perfect synchronization.

Sea bass Carpaccio topped the menu, followed by baked burgundy escargots in garlic and parsley butter. Next came the soup, a double consommé with black truffles, foie gras and spring vegetables. For the main event Chef Sopheak Pov served pan-fried Black Angus beef tenderloin topped with a hot slice of foie gras and finished with a Périgourdine sauce.

Afterward, a crisp, tangy lime sherbet provided the perfect complement to the warm, hearty beef. Chef Sopheak Pov then served small plates of truffle-stuffed brie to prepare our palates for the sumptuously sweet finale: praline with a white chocolate cream-and-coffee glaze.

Arnaud Darc rubbed shoulders with guests and poured a few glasses himself. Jazz maestros Phil & Ritchy filled the room with French classics. More than a few toasts were made: to Topaz, to the chef, and to the joie de vivre.

Excellent, indeed.

Check out more event photos here.