by Paige Donner (All photos © 2019)
Ever wondered what the (not ‘a’, but ‘the’) famous French chef’s vegetable gardens look like? You know the chef I mean, the one whose 3-Michelin starred Parisian all-vegetable restaurant became world-famous precisely because of the chef’s skill with, and quality of, his vegetables.
Of course I am referring to Chef Alain Passard and his one-of-a-kind Arpége.
In an era when many 3-Michelin star chefs find it challenging to make their prestige restaurants profitable, and so open up bistros and branded niche foods in multiple locations and dozens of countries, this chef has chosen to remain with one, and one only, iconic, landmark dining legend.
“Je suis bien chez moi,” he declares, when asked. “I like being in my own kitchens. I like being ‘at home’ where everything is familiar. I don’t feel the need to go elsewhere, or open up a global empire of restaurants…”.
In other words, he seems pretty happy.
Certainly one of the brilliant components to his success is his recognition of his raw materials, in this case vegetables. They must be treated, he advises, with jewel-like reverence and care.
“The gardener is as important as the chef, ” said Alain Passard at lunch last week, “At least until harvest time and up until the vegetables arrive in my kitchens.”
This lovingly restored Château in Normandy is not the only gardens he cultivates and possesses. He started on this quest for the perfect herbs and vegetables several decades ago with his first vegetables cultivated on his land in Sarthe. Up here in Normandy, about an hour and 15 minutes from Paris, is, however, the space where he has room to receive guests. On March 11th, thanks to Oenoteam, a Libourne (Bordeaux) based team of enologists, some 30 of us had the privilege and delight to be Chef Passard’s guests for lunch.
No meat passed our lips that day at lunch. Though we dined on boeuf bourguignon (in a blind tasting anyone would have sworn to it) and a miniature hamburger-slider – each dish based on the magic of a beetroot under the care, cultivation, guidance and manipulation of Chef Passard’s creativity and skillful tool sets.
Wines were provided by Oenoteam, whose wine consulting includes over 200 clients in both the Left and Right banks of Bordeaux, as well as clients in Southwest France, the Loire and other prestige regions of France. The team is: Stéphane Toutoundji, Thomas Duclos, Julien Belle and Marie-Laure Badet Murat. Their philosophy is to allow wines their own expression, rather than to impose a style onto a wine. Oenoteam.
It’s not always easy to pair wines with vegetables and all-vegetable meals. But each of the choices here, including a 2015 Pomerol, were right on the mark.
As a parting shot, the chef challenged us all to return with a wine for him to pair with Asparagus. : )
For groups interested in booking the chef’s Château Normandy for a private gathering of their own, contact the Chef’s team @ alain-passard.com/en/
And, local’s TIP: (Find it on his website)
Bring home a piece of Arpège…
Every morning, our gardeners harvest vegetables & fruits that are then served at the restaurant. And every morning, they pick a little more, and fill wooden baskets with the jewels of our soil, just for you…
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MORE PHOTOS ON FoodWine.Photography
All sculptures pictured here are by the Chef Alain Passard.
Listen to the Paris GOODfood+wine podcast. Chef Passard was featured in our first season.