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The Rising Chefs of France

Shamanistic Attitudes

In the past, to reach the top of the profession in France, a chef had to be his own boss. There was no place where he could officiate other than his own kitchen. Nowadays, most of the upcoming über-chefs operate in hotels following the example of Alain Ducasse, who primed his stellar career in 1989 on the premises of the Hôtel de Paris in Monte-Carlo, where he created the world-famous Louis XV restaurant. Many super-chefs are now making their mark in the palaces of the well-funded hotel chains.

In this environment, young chefs are ready to take over. We have selected some of the most visible and accessible among them. Mind you: They do not constitute a particular trend but, as diverse as they are, they share some common ideas in their definition of the modern gastronomy. A visit to their tables has convinced us that we need not worry for the future of haute cuisine.

Yannick Alléno
Yannick Alléno

Yannick Alléno, 38, trained by two great “pros,” Roland Durand and Louis Grondard, has been embedded since 2003 in the entirely renovated Hôtel Meurice. His “chaud-froid” (hot and cold) sole looks like a variation of a classical dish with its Noilly aspic jelly, fish mousse and chopped mushrooms sautéed in butter. But, the surprise comes with a jelly-like celery root bavarois, a mussels cream, and a tomato mousse. On the plate, the sole filets lie under the fine stuffing, glazed with Noilly, just steamed, garnished with puffs of tomato mousse, and, served on the side, the thick, creamy mussels soup, and the jellied mussels seasoned with orange-scented mussels powder. A devilish recipe where the taste of the sole is challenged by the “chaud-froid” preparation.

Christophe Moret
Christophe Moret ©Roméo Balancourt

Christophe Moret is Alain Ducasse’s “alter ego” at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée where he replaced Jean-François Piège, when he left for Les Ambassadeurs at the Hôtel de Crillon in 2004. Moret, 40, the grandson in a market-gardeners family from the Loire area, is a truly labelled Ducasse guy (after his tenure at Le Louis XV, 59 Poincarré and SPOON, Food & Wine). Ducasse swears on Moret: he is passionate, rigorous and curious, with skills and an open mind. The Plaza is now the flagship of Alain Ducasse’s armada. Such classical dishes as Lucien Tendret-crusted pâté, Bresse poultry with Albufera sauce (béchamel sauce with sweet peppers), or creamed truffled semi-dried pastas and cocks kidneys and combs need to be prepared to perfection.

Jean-Louis Nomicos
Jean-Louis Nomicos

Jean-Louis Nomicos, Marseille-born, 40, has also shared Alain Ducasse’s adventure at the Hôtel Juana. His career later led him to La Grande Cascade where he engineered his signature dish: a subtle variation of semi-dried pasta, creamed and truffled in the form of macaroni with black truffle and foie gras. He is now at the helm at Lasserre with the mission to revive this somnolent but still magical house. He is resuscitating the Lasserre classics, such as the André Malraux squab; the Challans duckling "à l’orange;" and pheasant Souvaroff style, slowly stewed in a casserole, with foie gras cooked and preserved in its own fat. He is a meticulous and demanding chef, with an eye on the past but very open to new trends. This new, dazzling cuisine at Lasserre calls for a revamping of the stale décor.

Fréderic Robert
Fréderic Robert

Fréderic Robert is also a talented forty-year-old. Saucier (sauce chef) at Le Grand Véfour in 1986, then second in command at L'Ambroisie in 1992, chef at Le Vivarois during Claude Peyrot’s period (1995-1997), he had been, since 1997, chef at Lucas Carton working with Alain Senderens. He is now in charge of sprucing up the kitchen of La Grande Cascade. He is doing just that with his zucchini blossoms with chanterelle mushrooms and cockles seasoned with lemon- and ginger-flavored oil as a starter, followed by calf sweetbreads slowly stewed with a turtle grass sauce (olives, capers, and small cubes of fried bread).

What do these cuisiniers Alléno (Meurice), Moret (Plaza), Nomicos (Lasserre), and Robert (La Grande Cascade) have in common? They all master their skills, of course, and share the same modern appreciation of the flavors and a total dedication to the product. They have a shamanistic-like attitude. They feel and they are inspired.

To be added to these Parisian chefs are Didier Elena, at Les Crayères (Reims), for a magnificent dish of calf head and liver, and a socca (chick-pea flour purée), as well as Sylvestre Walid, at L'Oustau de Baumanière (Les Baux de Provence), who has mastered this past winter a celestial oeuf de poule served cold with a celery flavor and black truffles.

(Updated: 04/05/11 CT)

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