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When I first heard about Gastronomades, a foodie festival in southwest France that showcases a new wave of young, hip and actually cute Gallic chefs, I knew I had to clear my calendar. And indeed, the event, held in late November, offered proof that this crop of upstarts—part of a group that calls itself Generation C—is out to liven up France's often stuffy restaurant scene. In contrast to the stereotypical chef de cuisine—grumpy, potbellied and dressed in baggy white pants and clogs—the cooks in this crowd are likely to wear slim-cut dark shirts over their svelte torsos (sometimes along with an earring or two) and are eager to share their know-how and put on a fun show. Fortunately they're a truly talented bunch.

In front of an excited audience of food nerds, Eric Guerin, 35, whose restaurant in Brittany has one Michelin star, faced off against Corsican Rouald Boyer in a culinary joust: Guerin was the clear winner, with his oysters in shallot sauce and veal roast served with ginger and pear puree. In less than an hour he also managed to whip up a white chocolate mouse seasoned with thyme. Besides demonstrating his superb technique, Guerin entertained by throwing spices over his veal roast like confetti, from several feet away, and slicing his rutabaga at full speed while having a good laugh with the crowd—without once looking at his fingers.

Patrick Jeffroy, a two-star Breton chef who's a big fan of Japanese cuisine, was another one of the event's stars. While he was unfailing with explanations about the use of various Asian products, he was at his best while running around excitedly and offering everyone samples of top-grade fresh wasabi that had just arrived from Japan. I took a taste, and the root was perfectly emblematic of the weekend as a whole: spicy, provocative and delicious.