She enjoys dining out, lists wine-tasting as one of her passions and was set on a career in EU affairs. So Amélie Empereur has done rather well for herself in landing work for Euro-Toques, a lobby group of about 4,000 chefs whose aim is to defend European culinary heritage.
The chefs have all signed a charter declaring that they will defend local produce and traditional recipes and respect the diversity of national and regional traditions. Euro-Toques is one of Empereur’s main clients because she is senior consultant and head of the food department at Euralia, a public-affairs consultancy. She sums up the chefs’ values as “local, artisan and traditional”.
On their behalf, she lobbies for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The chefs want compulsory labelling of fish, with information such as where the fish was caught and, if it is frozen, the date of freezing.
Other areas where the organisation is active are EU food hygiene rules and food labelling regulations. Euro-Toques considers the wording of the 2011 food-labelling regulation to be too vague. “Chefs are quite worried by the legislation because they’re not sure what they have to show on their menus. Is it okay to communicate information about allergens orally or must it be on the menu? Can they just inform customers when asked or do they have to be proactive? There are many unanswered questions,” she says.
Born in Greece to French parents, Empereur attended an English school there, mixing with many nationalities at an early age, an experience that she says partly explains why she has always felt as much European as French. At the age of seven, her family moved back to France, where she continued her schooling and completed her university education, gaining a master’s degree in European affairs from the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Lille.
A series of work placements helped Empereur narrow down which area of the EU she wanted to work in. One of her internships was in the legal service of the French secretariat-general of European affairs in Paris during the run-up to France’s EU presidency in 2008. “It was a great time to be there and it gave me an excellent insight into European affairs from a national perspective,” says Empereur. “But I knew at the end of the six months that I didn’t want to work for an administration.”
EU affairs knowledge
After graduating in 2008, Empereur started at BusinessEurope, a business association that aims to preserve and strengthen corporate competitiveness. It was there, where she focused on internal market and legal matters, that she realised she wanted to pursue a career in EU lobbying. When her six months at BusinessEurope were over, Empereur heard about the position at Euralia. “I had a good general knowledge of EU affairs and I’d shown the ability to become an expert in one or two particular issues,” she says. She has now been with Euralia for just over three years.
After two internships in the legal sector, Empereur already knew that she enjoyed working on legal texts. But she also likes getting out and about meeting members of the European Parliament, European Commission officials and other stakeholders, sometimes on her own, sometimes with the chef Daniel Rameau, Euro-Toques’ Luxembourg-based president. “I like lobbying. I like to be the representative of someone’s interests,” she says.
Not all of her work has the glamour of working with chefs. Other clients of Euralia’s food department are the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe and the French vegetable company Bonduelle.
“Food is central to our daily lives,” says Empereur. “It’s great that there’s a link between ‘real life’ and my professional life.”
Anna Jenkinson is a freelance journalist based in Brussels.
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