Le chatillon restaurant in Boulogne with huge plateau de fruits de mer covered with oysters, shrimps, lobster and more
Le Chatillon Fish Restaurant in Boulogne

This year Hauts-de-France has won the European Region of Gastronomy Award. It’s awarded by a body called the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism. The IGCAT (rather long winded but it does cover everything) picks a European country/region each year.

No surprises that it’s been awarded to France. But the region? Not one you might expect…not Provence, nor Normandy, nor Burgundy (Lyons must be gutted), nor the south west but…northern France! The Hauts-de-France win of the European Region of Gastronomy Award for 2023 has surprised everyone…except those who happen to live in the Nord, Pas de Calais and Picardy.

Winning the award is great news for anyone travelling from the UK. It’s on our doorstep.

About the Hauts-de-France European Gastronomy Award

Marche St Omer market with large building in background of stone with domed roof and market stalls in foreground with red umbrellas and fruit and veg
Marché St-Omer ©Office de tourisme de la Région de Saint-Omer

The award highlights regions which promote the art of eating well. But it’s also about sustainability and meeting economic, ecological and social challenges. The Institute is a slow food and bio diversity advocate, formed in 2012 as a non-profit international organisation.

The award is very much about supporting local producers, farmers, cheese makers, winemakers and more. And Hauts-de-France won the European Award for the support, and for its products, traditional regional cooking, specialities and innovation. As the IGCAT put it: “producers and chefs put local, homemade and seasonal produce on the menu, with all the generosity of the ‘people of the North’”. This also reduces food miles, a key concern of the French.

The candidacy was led by Alexandre Gauthier, the 2-Michelin star chef of La Grenouillère in La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil along with a collective of 9 members.

La Grenouillère outside with house on ground floor and two steel marquee towers on toope. Green grass in front in dappled sunlight
La Grenouillère

A Delighted Hauts-de-France wins European Gastronomy Award

Le Verbois dish with spoon on top of mushroom on wooden board with lots of attractive leaves and greenery
Le Verbois

 The region’s response to the Award:

“Hauts-de-France is more like a hidden jewel, just like one of its most iconic food products, the endive, also called the ‘Pearl of the North’. Our gastronomy is alive, full of taste and authenticity. It is bitter, sweet and smoked; its incomparable flavours reflect nature with our coastline, great plains, fields and orchards, forming a fundamental part of what we offer visitors.”

Food of Hauts-de-France

Aerialview of Marais Audomarois near Saint-Omer showing green fields in strips with patches of trees and water as canals or lakes
Marais Audomarois Wetlands

Gastronomy in Hauts-de-France is full of surprises.

Did you know that the region is the world’s largest producer of endives, and Europe’s largest potato producer?

That Boulogne is France’s biggest fishing port with a fleet of around 100 working fishing boats catching over seventy species of fish a day?

Boulogne in Hauts de France fishing harbour with many fishing boats in front and yachts behind all bobbing in sea
Boulopgne sur Mer fishing harbour © Ludovic Maisant

That Saint-Omer is the French capital of summer cauliflowers?

That the region produces the country’s biggest selection of cheeses with more than 200 varieties. Buy them at specialist cheese shops like those owned by Philippe Olivier?

Philippe Olivier cheese shop in Hauts de France with green front and name above large windows showing huge amounts of different cheeses
Philippe Olivier cheese shop

That 10% of France’s champagne is produced here?!

Champagne bottle pouring champagne into two glasses

And that’s just for starters.

A Surprisingly Long History

During the Roman era, hams made in Cassel were exported to Italy and sold in Rome.

Beer was first produced around Valenciennes by the Celts who made cervoise. Then the medieval monks, knowing a thing or two about good living, took over. Beer was flavoured with gruyt (aromatic herbs) grown in the monastery gardens before hops were introduced. In the early 1900s there were around 2,000 breweries in Hauts-de-France. Today there may only be around 150 breweries, but they make up more than half of all breweries in France.  

Glass of half full amber beer with 2 Caps written on glass
2 Caps Beer from Pas the Calais © Floorkoudjis/CC/BY/SA 4.0

Chantilly cream was invented in Hauts-de-France in 1671.

Breton crepe on plate with two piles of whipped chantilly cream in Hauts de France
Crepe with chestnuts and Chantilly cream © Benoit Prieur/CC/BY/SA 1.0

Top Restaurants in Hauts-de-France

Balsamique restaurant interior with wooden table and chairs with plastic moulded shampe and iron legs. Table laid with glasses, menu etc and open kitchen behind

There are 16 Michelin-starred restaurants, 2 of them with 2 Michelin stars and the others with 1 star. Also look out for a wide variety of local restaurants, from estaminets which have Flemish connections, to small bistros, plus a lot of fish and seafood restaurants.

Le Colegram restaurant in Saint Omer. Corner of dining room with windows on two sides, small table and two chairs and large tree in corner. Very attractive place with wooden floor and view outside
Le Colegram in Saint-Omer

Best Restaurants in Hauts-de-France

Visit the Food Producers

Cheese farms, chocolate makers, endive specialists and more offer visits where you can see and learn how each speciality is produced.

La Halte d'autrefois goat cheese farm in hauts de france with three bably goats lying down on hay in wooden pen
La Halte d’Autrefois produces goat cheese and offers lessons

Take a Cookery Lesson

Learn how to cook fish in Boulogne, chicken in Arras and that famous whipped cream in Chantilly.  

All this and more has led to the Hauts-de-France official European Region of Gastronomy Award.

Here’s my article about the Food of Hauts-de-France.

More Information on the Region

How to get to Hauts-de-France

Tourist Offices

Hauts-de-France Tourism
Nord Department Tourism
Pas de Calais Tourism
Picardy Tourism

Regions of France
French Departments

Food in France

The Food of France – An Intriguing Story

The photograph at the top of the article is of Le Cerisier, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lille.

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