French Flair: Once Called The Most Feared Food Critic In The World, François Simon Now Waxes Poetic About Provence - Arts & Culture

Simon, the apparent (unconfirmed) inspiration for Anton Ego, has published a 312-page book by luxury publisher Assouline.  

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Born in 1953, François Simon is regarded by many as, in the words of The New York Times, “the most feared and most read figure in France’s culinary world.” A long-time food critic, his reviews and pieces used to out in Le Figaro, the French daily which has been around since 1826. The writer’s reputation precedes him so much that it is rumore that Anton Ego, the not-so-villainous (spoiler alert) critic in the 2007 animated film Ratatouille, was inspired by him.

Lunch on the terrace at La Colombe d’Or / Photo by Martine Assouline, courtesy of Assouline

Writer’s writer

Apart from an appearance in the popular Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table in 2016 where he paid a visit at the Parisian restaurant Yam’Tcha and discussed Adeline Gattard among other things, Simon continued writing for other publications after leaving Le Figaro in 2014. He has contributed to GQ, Casa Brutus, and Le Monde, and is also a novelist.

Like most lifestyle journalists, Simon is driven by the opportunity of discovery. “There’s talent everywhere and what is most exciting for me is to travel round France to unearth it,” he says in a 2010 interview with the Financial Times.

Simon’s most recent project is a book by Assouline titled Provence Glory. This is the writer’s second title with the luxury publisher after the 2001 book The Provence of Alain Ducasse, which he of course collaborated with the French chef.  

Style on the streets of Marseille / Photo by Mona Gris, @mona.pix, courtesy of Assouline

Measuring 9.8-inch by 13-inch, Provence Glory has around 200 illustrations spread over 312 pages, and was released last month. Here, Simon presents Provence as being something for everyone, from cities to quaint towns and everything in between.

Art, travel, and culture

The region’s qualities are extolled through enviable checklist that could be done in it: Swim in the crystal- clear waters of the Calanque de Sormiou in Marseille. Drive with the top down through elds of lavender in Valensole. Experience a bite of just-out-of-the-oven fougasse, a Provençal classic. Stand in awe of the beautiful, white Camargue horses native to the area.

Located in the South of France, Provence is uniquely positioned to be a cultural blend of the Mediterranean. Roman landmarks still prevail from the 1st century AD alongside châteaus from medieval times—a varied legacy brightened by the indigenous mimosas and cypresses.

A mas (Provençal farmhouse) near Gordes / Photo by Eric Martin, courtesy of Assouline

Perhaps since the region is well-known for its ability to inspire, it’s home to a plethora of festivals such as Rencontre d’Arles, Festival d’Avignon, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and more, all celebrating the arts. Artists who have praised the unique Provençal light include Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso. Alexandre Dumas and Jean Giono are among the writers who were drawn to write in the shade of the region’s plane trees.

Provence Glory is available through

Banner Photo of Château de Cassis Photo by Tess Baes, Courtesy of Chateau de Cassis and Assouline

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