Panera Bread employee show's how mac n cheese is made....get's fired!

Fait maison came up in another context in another forum and I was reminded of this thread. I ask where the line is to be drawn? I think most of us would have no problem drawing lines although we may not agree on where they go.

Perhaps, for purposes of discussion, we can agree that buying something grown and harvested to cook with is still homemade, although shouldn’t the place with its own herb garden get credit? If you use tomato paste from a tube or sauce from a can is that still homemade? Do you have to make your own chicken stock or can you buy a Tetra pack? Can food be prepared offsite if there is common ownership (central kitchen for prep for example)? If so, why does ownership make a difference? What, pray tell, do we do about cheese? Clearly cheese is processed - can you make homemade lasagna if you don’t make your own cheese? What does “processed” even mean? Cheese is processed. Sausage is processed. Wine is processed. Sticking “industrial” on as an adjective doesn’t help. I defy you to find a wine that is not industrially processed unless you make it yourself. Is corn harvested, shucked, shorn, and flash frozen okay? Suppose you mix it with peas before freezing? How about adding little cubes of a sauce that will melt when heated? Does it matter if you heat in a microwave or a pan?

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I think the fait maison law in France is not going to accomplish what was intended. I would rather read a couple of paragraphs in narrative form from the back of a menu about the Chef’s approach and leave the sourcing judgment to him or her.

Oh - I use tomato sauce from a can, tomato paste from a tube, chicken stock from a Tetra pack, and I’m not shy about using frozen veg although I make my own sauces, thank you. I shred my own cheese and read the ingredients and nutrition labels. My lasagna gets quite good reviews. grin

This topic on its own worths a new thread. The spirit of the law, I think, is a positive move, the effectiveness of application is another issue.

Yes for the sake of discussion, here is the text of the law on the government website:

Mise à jour du 9 avril 2015 :

La mention “fait maison” en restauration fait l’objet d’évolutions qui ont comme double objectif : mieux informer les consommateurs et valoriser le travail et le savoir-faire des restaurateurs.

Les principales évolutions du dispositif « fait maison » :

Le « fait maison » concerne les produits crus transformés sur place, c’est-à-dire non cuits ou non dénaturés par quelque procédé que ce soit.
Les seules exceptions à cette règle concernent les produits que le consommateur ne s’attend pas à ce qu’ils soient confectionnés sur place, tels que les pâtes, les fromages, le pain. Ainsi, la pâte feuilletée doit dorénavant être cuisinée par le restaurateur pour porter la mention « fait maison ».

Lorsque le restaurateur utilise un produit d’une marque de renom, le plat ne pourra pas être dit « fait maison ». Il sera précisé l’utilisation de ce produit de marque.

La phrase « les plats ‘faits maison’ sont élaborés sur place à partir de produits bruts » ne figurera que sur les cartes des restaurants souhaitant mettre en avant les plats « fait maison ».

Update April 9, 2015:

The mention “home-made” in catering is the subject of evolutions which have two objectives: better inform consumers and enhance the work and know-how of restaurateurs.

The main evolutions of the “homemade” device:

“Homemade” relates to raw products processed on site, that is to say, uncooked or not denatured by any process whatsoever.

The only exceptions to this rule are for products that the consumer does not expect to be made on site, such as pasta, cheese, bread. Thus, the puff pastry must now be cooked by the restaurateur to bear the mention “homemade”.

When the restaurant owner uses a product from a renowned brand, the dish cannot be said to be “homemade”. The use of this branded product will be clarified.

The phrase “home-made dishes are made on the spot from raw products” will only appear on restaurant cards wishing to highlight “home-made” dishes.

You can ask further questions before entering the restaurant to understand what is “homemade” and what’s not. Usually when you follow certain chefs their cooking belief, with or without the label, you know the approach.

FYI, the whole list of food is here:

Salasisons, saurisseries, charcuteries (sauf terrines et pâtés), fromages, matières grasses alimentaires, crème fraîche, lait, pain, farines et biscuits secs, légumes et fruits sec et confits, pâtes et céréales, choucroute crue, levure, sucre et gélatine, condiment, épices, aromates, concentrès, abats blanchis, chocolat, café, tisanes, thés et infusions, sirops, vins alcools et liqeurs, et les fonds blonds, bruns et fumets ainsi que la demi-glace (il s’agit de l’appellation officielle des réductions de ces fonds).


Salasisons, pastries, cold cuts (except terrines and pâtés), cheeses, edible fats, fresh cream, milk, bread, flour and dry biscuits, vegetables and dried and candied fruits, pasta and cereals, raw sauerkraut, yeast, sugar and gelatin, condiment, spices, herbs, concentrates, bleached offal, chocolate, coffee, herbal teas, teas and infusions, syrups, wines and liqueurs, and the blond, brown and fumet stocks as well as the demi-glace (this is the official name of the reductions in these stocks).

My question about “processed” was more broad. People throw the word around without thought.

Language is important if imperfect. It is all we have for communication. What the (insert expletive of choice here) is “raw sauerkraut?” Cabbage? This is what happens when politicians are involved.

I’m not very familiar with the detail of this law, actually I’ve never seen the sign in any of the restaurants I went, which some go as far as growing their own vegetables and baking their bread or make their pasta.

I read further on this subject, I think you’re right. This label “fait maison” can be contradictory, and allows frozen food and in this case the fries! Also any dish not mentioned in the text of the law can be considered as such if the brand name or the name of the person who fabricated is showed. Or the fabricated dish has already obtained the label “fait maison”. In a case like a bag of vegetables already prepared and cut, if the chef adds some herbs as decoration, the dish is already qualified under this label.

Good intention but not very well thought out, and lots of loop holes which make the law serves mostly the interest of food industries than those farm to table restaurants.

I’m certainly not an expert - my familiarity is entirely Google-based. grin

I think the intention of protecting the meaning of “homemade” or “house-made” is fine, and consistent with labeling regulation much more deeply ingrained in the EU than in the US. It seems very difficult to really get right even with hundreds of pages of detailed rules and exceptions. In the end, and strictly my opinion, transparency may be better than regulating vocabulary.

I don’t care if veg is cut by a prep cook in the kitchen or by a machine somewhere else. I do care if the chef has too heavy a hand with the salt. Over salting (a pet peeve) is just as bad in the kitchen as in a factory somewhere.

In fairness to Panera, I’ve never had their mac and cheese and am unlikely to try it. I have had the blue box and compared to what I make at home in about the same amount of time the blue box does not measure up. I’m going somewhere with this so bear with me.

The reporting linked above indicated discontent in the French culinary community. I get that, even only based on the limited perspective we have shared here. I have a somewhat warped sense of humor, so if I was cooking in France I would take the signage ( and make the text bonne nourriture (good food) and thumb my nose at the authorities.

There is a Panera Bread in the hospital in which my brother-in-law spent time. I ate a lot of sandwiches there and I found them to be good (not great) if a little expensive. I don’t have a fundamental problem with food being prepackaged as long as it tastes good on the plate. Therein is the rub as it seems really hard to accomplish that.