Vive la Malaisie

Ambassador of France to Malaysia Frederic Laplanche tips his hat to five Malaysian endeavours that have made their mark in his home country

17 May 2019 / 10:24 H.

MALAYSIANS might not have been aware that our country has been making its mark in France on a number of occasions, especially in the French culinary, literary and arts scenes.

In a recent letter to the local media here, Ambassador of France to Malaysia Frederic Laplanche cites five instances in which the efforts of a number of chefs, an artist and a writer managed to put the Malaysian name in the French limelight.

In February last year, the Michelin Guide awarded its much-sought-after one-star rating to Pertinence in Paris.

The restaurant is the creation of Kuala Lumpur-born chef Kwen Liew and Japanese chef Ryunosuke Naito (who’s her partner-cum-husband), inadvertently making Liew the first Malaysian chef to be awarded a Michelin star for a restaurant in Paris!

Then in May, the Pompidou Centre in Paris organised its first-ever solo exhibition of an artist from Southeast Asia, that of Malaysian painter Latiff Mohidin and his Pago-Pago series, an ensemble of paintings inspired by the dialogue between avant-garde art in the West and Malaysia’s own pictorial and aesthetic traditions.

That same month, some 470km away from Paris, a mamak eatery opened in Lyon, the French capital of good food, bearing the name of Boleh Lah! The place was set up by three French students in their mid-20s, who had spent a few months in Kuala Lumpur as interns and fell in love with this popular Malaysian-style restaurant.

With a Malaysian chef for quality assurance, the trio – though not Malaysians – intend to move to larger premises to spread their love for roti canai, laksa nyonya and beef rendang – all ‘Made in France’ – to more of their countrymen.

Then, in November, Shih-Li Kow was awarded the Prize for First Novel by a Foreign Writer – a prestigious, one-book-per-year French literary award – for her novel, The Sum of Our Follies, making her the first Malaysian to be awarded a literary prize in France.

Her larger-than-life characters going about in an imaginary city in Perak make for not only a delightful read but also a fantastic introduction to the intricacies and beauties of Malaysia’s contemporary society.

Finally, in January this year, a Malaysian team comprising Tan Wei Loon, Otto Tay and Loi Ming Ai under the guidance of Captain Patrick Siau, won the World Pastry Cup.

Again, it was the first time a Malaysian team took the gold medal in this biennial international pastry competition held in Lyon, France, for the past 30 years.

Ambassador Laplanche adds: “France is a country which values arts considerably – whether culinary arts, visual arts or literature...

“That Malaysia was able in the past months to woo the French through [these] artistic [endeavours] is a fantastic achievement...

“But behind these successes, lie stories of effort, discipline and passion from the artists and craftsmen who made a name for themselves, and for their country, in France.

“Malaysia can really be proud of them!”

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