‘This is sh*t!’: France says goodbye to beloved food critic
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Though little known outside his homeland, Jean-Pierre Coffe, whose death at the age of 78 was announced Wednesday, was one of France’s best-loved TV personalities known above all for his relentless and often outspoken campaign against eating badly.
With his bald head and trademark brightly coloured round glasses, Coffe cut a distinctive figure as he hosted and appeared on numerous television shows over the past 30 years.
But it was his heartfelt and usually comical rants against the growing impact of junk food on French eating habits that earned him a place in the hearts of many of the viewing public.
“This is sh*t!”, an accusation levelled by Coffe at various sub-standard food products, became something of a catchphrase, while a slew of memorable television appearances caught the public’s attention – not least when hurling industrially produced charcuterie at a TV host in 1984 in one particularly passionate fit of culinary rage.
In a country celebrated for its cuisine, but where modern trends of quick, convenient and often innutritious dining have taken hold, Coffe sought to persuade consumers to change their eating habits for the better, encouraging them to eat fresh, seasonal products and reconnect with the pleasure of cooking.
To this end, he published several books on food, including 2013’s “Stop Eating Crap” and 2004’s “Consumers: Revolt!”.
He argued that anyone could afford to eat well and published guides with titles such as “How to Feed a Family for Less Than 9 Euros a Day”.
He could be equally uninhibited when talking about his private life. In a 2015 autobiography, he wrote candidly about his difficult childhood, the pain of losing his daughter to cancer at age 37 and his bisexuality.
In a sign of his cultural significance in his home country, French President François Hollande was among those to pay tribute to Coffe following the news of his death.
Coffe “contributed to restoring to French gastronomy all of its prestige, but also all its simplicity. He wanted to make it available to everyone”, he said in a statement.
Coffe’s death was announced Wednesday by the RTL radio station, one of several with which he had collaborated over the years.
According to media reports, he died overnight Monday to Tuesday at his home in Lanneray in the Eure-et-Loir department of northern France. The cause of death has not yet been made public.