fine dining in a moment of tranquility

This Monday, January 30, Paris hosts the French final S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academywho witnessed the crowning of the young chief Camille Saint-M’leux. But shortly before the awards ceremony in Human Coffeefirst edition of Brain Food Forum held. For nearly an hour, several gastronomic casts have gathered around Alexandre Cammas, founder of the guide Le Fooding, to talk fine dining in an era of sobriety.

To discuss this issue and especially to provide ideas and solutions, journalists have been invited Christophe Bacquiea three-star chef who recently left the Hôtel du Castellet to open his own restaurant; Amélie Darvas and Gaby Benicio from the restaurant aponem ; James Henry from restaurants dean and Anna Shoji, a farmer based near Tours and who grows Japanese vegetables exclusively. Filmed interview withOlivier Roellinger, produced by Fine Dining Lovers, also played at the end of this roundtable event. The following is a brief summary of the 2023 Brain Food Forum.

Simple but quality product

The roundtable opened with the testimonies of Amélie Darvas and Gaby Benicio. The two restorers, formerly based in Paris, left the capital more than four years ago for Vailhan, in Hérault. There, the two young women first learn to adapt and naturally settle down, content with what they have around their home. “In Paris, we have everything, right away. In Vailhan, it was even more complicated to get supplies we buy a garden and start cultivating the land, to get the products we need”, explains chef Amélie Darvas. Also to ensure the quality of the product he cooks, James Henry moved to Saint-Vrain, in Essonne, and opened Le Doyenné, a restaurant where chefs do everything from A to Z, including raising pigs, growing vegetables, but also bed and breakfast.

If cultivating and cultivating could be the solution to avoiding cooking products coming from far away and to ensure their quality, other chefs have managed to build a relationship of trust with local producers to offer the best of their region. “We tend to think that to make good food, you have to cook noble products. Whereas simple things, like beef strips or carrots are just as good”, convinced Olivier Roellinger. The serenity that Christophe Bacquié craves. Now 50 years old, Meilleur Ouvrier de France has chosen to leave his position as a three-star chef at the Hotel du Castellet to open his own inn in the Luberon. With his wife Alexandra, the chef wanted to offer something more discreet and simple, but still excelling. “We are in a time when chefs are going back to the basics we should never have left”, he assured. Meanwhile, farmer Anna Shoji left everything behind to start growing Japanese vegetables in French territory, to bring the taste of this food to France, with a lower carbon footprint. “10-15 years ago, you couldn’t find a kilometer of beans, lotus or taro in France, or they were all brought in by plane and half rotten on arrival.” he remembered. Growing all these vegetables near Tours has allowed the farmer to rediscover the flavors of his childhood and share this passion with the many chefs who in turn want to introduce them to their customers, while respecting the environment.

Gastronomy and sobriety: a contradiction?

In the video shown at the end of the round table, Olivier Roellinger says that gastronomy and sobriety are almost a contradiction in terms and that a return to more commendable values ​​is necessary away from competition but especially from the “arms race”. “There was a time when you had to change your toilet and dishes every five years. I think today, customers agree to come to a simpler home” but offer cooking “full sincerity”, rejoices- he said.

A sentence that sounds like hope and above all confidence in the future, as Rene Redzepi, chef of Noma in Copenhagen, recently announced the closure of his restaurant scheduled for 2024 “because this gastronomic model is very highhe told the New York Times, unsustainable, financially or emotionally, as an employer or as a human being, it just doesn’t work.” Loud words that didn’t resonate with guests at the Brain Food Forum: “He’s criticizing the system from which he’s born”, regrets James Henry, who thinks that the Noma case is nothing out of the ordinary. “It is his choice, but if he is so uncomfortable with this way of doing things, why wait until the end of 2024 to stop everything?”, asked Christophe Bacquié. “Our profession is not perfect but we are experiencing tremendous social progress. It is up to us to think about our profession differently.”

This is also what Amélie Darvas and Gaby Benicio do at Äponem, very often trying new things. “On Monday, we had a big meeting with everyone to talk about everyone’s ideas and wishes. Also, everyone is paid the same salary. We are trying horizontality rather than verticality in the hierarchy to break into the military side of the kitchen.” explained Gaby Benicio. “Everyone is equally important. If you don’t have a diver, it’s hell! So we bet on an egalitarian model.” “Cooking is a collective sport”, added Olivier Roellinger, who concluded the roundtable with this common-sense sentence: “Doing nothing means letting other people do it. Don’t let them do it!”

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