what does Meilleur Ouvrir de France mean?

What does Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) mean?

The “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” award is extremely prestigious in France – find out exactly what it means

 Photo credit: École polytechnique – J.Barande

The term Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) is not particularly well known in the US or UK as it’s an award given to those who win a contest that takes part only in France. The competition is organised by the French Ministry of Labour and they host an awards ceremony at the Élysée palace in Paris in the presence of the President of France.

So that’s the the competition but what does Meilleur Ouvrier de France actually mean?

What is Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF?)

Meilleur Ouvrier de France translates as “Best Craftsman in France” and is an award bestowed upon winners of the competition that take place every 4 years in France. The contest is aimed at a multitude of different professions, from cheesemongers to hair dressing. The winners receive a medal with a distinctive ribbon with the colours of the French flag.

The award and contest started in 1924 with the aim to honour savoir faire, excellence in a profession and to preserve French heritage.

The competition is big – there’s 16 groups (restaurants, hotels, clothing etc.) and 200 professions within the 16 groups. It’s also really hard to win with no guarantee of number of winners – a candidate must demonstrate excellence in their field with knowledge of modern and traditional techniques.

Since its inception about 10,000 people have had the honour of being able to call themselves one of the Best Craftsmen in France. Those who do win keep the title for life – you may see a winner working in a cheese or charcuterie shop or in a bistro in Paris.

How do you become one?

To become a Meilleur Ouvrier de France is very difficult and is held in extremely high regard in France. It’s taken so seriously, anyone trying to pretend that they are a winner can face jail time. The preparation for the competition is intense – a candidate needs to spend months and even years preparing.

Any French citizen who is at least 23 years old can enter the competition (after paying the mandatory €60 entrance fee).

Once a candidate has entered the competition they will be expected to face different challenges set by the judges. For example, in the cuisine-gastronomie field, a chef may have to cook 3 technically challenging dishes within 5 hours to a precise standard – any small deviation from the instructions previously sent to them will end in failure. An oddity is that a candidate doesn’t have to be alone – they are allowed to be helped by two commis chefs, although they are not allow to know them. There may also be theoretical tests depending on the year.

Recent Meilleur Ouvrier de France winners

Recent Meilleur Ouvrier de France winners (2022) include:

Xavier Thuizat from the Hotel de Crillon in Paris in the sommelier category, David Alessandria from La Prairie in Clarens in the cooking category and Yanick Fressenon, the sole winner in the greengrocer category.

Other famous winners include:

Arnaud Larher (2007) – pastry category
Joël Robuchon (1976) – cooking category
Paul Bocuse (1961) – cooking category
Michel Roux (1976) – cooking category

Want to try some of the best MOF produce in Paris? Discover our cheese shop and charcuterie shop guides below:

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