Thursday 22 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 22/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

In print / Josh Fehnert

Unexpected delights

The news cycle is too dependent on desk-bound keyboard clatterers rewording wire copy and churning out boilerplate responses to the day’s talking points. Good journalism – sometimes upbeat, always unexpected – is the antidote to all the drudgery. Here are 10 insights from the March issue of Monocle magazine, which is out today.

Green spaces aren’t always good for us. Urbanist Des Fitzgerald prunes the propaganda, telling a less sunny story about the growth of city parks.

How to quell a riot: meet CRS8, the feared French security force tasked with keeping the peace in the capital’s Olympic year.

Tyler Brûlé’s take on decent leadership (yes, decency itself matters). Isn’t it time more people stepped up and set a better example?

Comics aren’t just for kids, as a bustling festival in Angoulême affirms. One in four books sold in France today is a bande dessinée.

How to build better ’hoods: our property special surveys the developers and projects bringing communities closer.

How to prepare for emergencies: we head to Fort McClellan, a decommissioned airport base in Alabama, for a terrifying, by turns surreal, live drill with the US Center for Domestic Preparedness.

How to escape: in Okinawa’s forest-freckled Motobu Peninsula, the tranquil villa Nakijin Tsuwabuki beckons.

We speak to five people worth knowing in São Paulo’s art scene. The industry is keen to make a global mark as it emerges from the troubled Bolsonaro years.

Where to make it in Europe: why furniture firms are turning to Poland for talent and manufacturing.

The importance of food diplomacy. We go where the chefs of world’s leaders and governments convene to discuss war and peas – and let off some steam.

Our team is always on assignment seeking fresh stories, tips and suggestions (and perhaps letting off a little steam too). Subscribe now to support us and to see what we find. The world’s a big place once you decide to step away from your desk.

Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s editor. Our March issue is on newsstands and available to subscribers online now.

The Briefings

Talking point: Fabrice Leggeri

Image: Getty Images

Politics / France

Right on cue

Fabrice Leggeri, former head of EU border agency Frontex, has announced that he will run as a candidate for France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) in June’s European elections. His decision is a coup for the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, and its president, Jordan Bardella.

Leggeri resigned from Frontex in 2022 while under investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud body, amid reports of the organisation’s complicity in the illegal pushback of asylum seekers. According to polling data released last week by Portland Communications, the far-right is likely to make major gains this summer. Its rise reflects broader divisions within Europe over migration and security policies – something that Leggeri will almost certainly seek to exploit.

Transport / Vietnam

Top of the line

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest metropolis, has started construction on its second Metro line after the government announced a $17bn (€15.7bn) boost in spending to speed up essential transport projects. The city’s first Metro line, which was built by a Japanese company, took more than 10 years to complete and is finally expected to open in July. The southern city is lagging behind Hanoi, whose Chinese-built Metro began taking passengers in 2021. The building of Ho Chi Minh City’s second Metro line is supported by several major international development banks but local issues that plagued earlier infrastructure projects in Vietnam – from red tape to funding shortfalls – could yet bog it down, causing delays that the scooter-clogged city can ill afford.

Tourism / Egypt

Pyramid scheme

As part of its efforts to relaunch Cairo as a cultural destination, Egypt announced plans this week to expand access to the city’s Saladin Citadel, a medieval fortress that served as the seat of government between the 13th and 19th centuries. The citadel has only been partly accessible since it opened to the public in 1983. Egypt aims to double the number of international tourists by 2028 and is also preparing for the long-delayed opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza later this year. The museum will host 100,000 artefacts from the country’s ancient civilisation.

View from above: the Saladin Citadel in Cairo

Image: Getty Images

Getting over the hump: the Pyramid of Menkaure at the Giza pyramid complex

Image: Getty Images

However, the crucial “Cairo City Break” branding strategy, whose full details are expected to be unveiled in the coming months, already faces significant hurdles, including the recent halting of the Giza pyramids’ renovation as a result of public criticism. Meanwhile, Egypt’s shared border with Gaza has led to a steep rise in travel cancellations since the beginning of the conflict. The longer it continues, the worse the fallout will be for Egypt’s tourism sector.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Food Story Media

Q&A / Jean-Philippe Blondet

Cream of the crop

Jean-Philippe Blondet is the executive chef at London’s Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. He tells us about his love of unpopular vegetables and the emotional power of food.

You grew up in Nice. Was there something about the food there that inspired you to become a chef?
I was born to be a chef. I’m in love with food. When you’re fortunate enough to be from Nice or Provence, where there are plenty of local markets selling fresh produce, you learn to respect the seasonality of ingredients. I originally wanted to be a pastry chef but I changed my mind.

London is full of Michelin-starred restaurants. What makes your style of cooking special?
I train all of our chefs to understand the emotions that food evokes. Vegetables are front and centre in my cuisine. When you cook a cauliflower in a certain way, it can evoke childhood memories. Last Saturday our soufflé au comté made a guest cry because she was so touched. Our food is all about emotion and connection. We don’t think about Michelin. We think of the feeling that we wish to give to our guests.

What’s your favourite ingredient to cook with?
Olive oil. I also love artichoke and cauliflower, as well as almost every type of unpopular vegetable. Cooking with unusual produce is like taking someone who is not famous and giving them fame. When we put cauliflower on a pedestal, for example, people say that they would never expect it to taste like it does. I love that.

For our full interview with Jean-Philippe Blondet, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Menu’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Rankin

Monocle Radio / Design

London Fashion Week 2024

As the citywide event celebrates its 40th anniversary, British Fashion Council CEO Caroline Rush reflects on its growth and importance. Then: designer Emilia Wickstead talks us through her work, which is inspired by the street photography of mid-century New York, and plans to design uniforms for Air New Zealand. Plus: we share some of our highlights from the runways this week.


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