In Michael Steinberger’s book Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine, published in 2009, there is a section which could go some way towards explaining the awful terrorist attacks in Paris last week and the other attacks this year.
Steinberger notes with surprise that in the kitchens of restaurants in France there was an absence of chefs of North African origin. He sees this as a failure of France to successfully assimilate its large immigrant, and mainly Muslim, population. And this failure was behind the riots and violence that exploded in the suburbs of Paris, Marseille, and other cities in 2005. In some of these suburbs youth unemployment rates were as high as 50%.
Yet at the same time French restaurants couldn’t find enough staff to fill their vacancies. However, restaurateurs never put two and two together. “To an American, this failure was especially mystifying because the restaurant trade has been so central to the immigrant experience in the United States,” says Steinberger. “For countless European, Asian, and Latin American immigrants, restaurant work had been a gateway to a better life.”
Could it be that if the disaffected young Muslims in those bleak suburbs that ring Paris and other French cities were given opportunities to become chefs, then the appeal of a group like ISIS might not be so strong? If they felt they had a career and hope, they would feel more part of French society. Surely this would make it harder for ISIS to find willing recruits. For if you feel you have a stake in a society, you work to build it up, not try and destroy it.