Gifted French chef visits campus

Last week, Sodexo, the campus dining service, welcomed chef Patrick Masson from Toulon, France, as part of the company’s Global Chef program. During his three days at Rensselaer, he prepared meals in both the Commons and Russell Sage dining halls to showcase the “international talent of Sodexo’s culinarians and share their expertise with American students,” according to David Gaul, marketing director for Sodexo.

Eager “to get a good and large taste of the different parts of France while avoiding the strange products like the frogs and the snails,” Masson said he chose chicken coq au vin as the main course for both dining halls. On Wednesday, in the Commons Dining Hall, a traditional onion tart and pumpkin and chestnut soup were also served. Dessert was lavender crème brûlée. During Masson’s Friday afternoon tour in Russell Sage, his menu included crêpes with various toppings and potato and French cheese gratin.

Despite feeling at home in a kitchen, Masson said he still noticed the “cultural differences between France and America. “The French eat more for lunch than dinner and we often eat soup, salads, or vegetables for dinner.”

He also noted the French “spend a long time eating; it’s a social time to share with your friends, family, or colleagues,” he said, recognizing that Americans live fast-paced lives.

Masson first visited the United States in 1996. “I think the American taste has changed since my first stay,” he said, adding, “It looks like you get more European products and cooking.” Nevertheless, his favorite American dish remains the iconic hamburger and steak fries.