As many of you know now, I was given the honor of being named Master Chef of France in late 2011. The induction ceremony took place in France on March 24, 2012. This event coincided perfectly with my Mom’s birthday and since I wanted to take my sous-Chef, Manuel, to France for some culinary inspiration, I booked my trip right away. This is the account of my week-long trip to France, adventure by culinary adventure. To start from the beginning, click here. Enjoy!
While there is nothing better than finally resting in province for a few days, I did not make this trip just to be on vacation! On Tuesday morning I woke up to get ready for my trip back to Paris. I said goodbye to my family and got back on the regional train to Lyon and then the fast train (the TGV) to Paris. I was in Paris around 5pm. I did some shopping and bought some slate plates and a summer suit. I needed a new suit for the fundraising and social events in Houston! Unfortunately, my budget was very small after spending so much on restaurants.
After dropping off my goodies at the hotel, I met up with Philippe Pantoli for one last round. This time it was at Le Petit Pergolese. This is the restaurant of Albert Corre one of my colleagues at the restaurant of Jacques Cagna many years ago. Albert has the most amazing resume of anyone I have ever seen with all the Michelin starred restaurants he has worked in. It was nice to see him again along with the work he is doing. It is like a modern bisto with a very nice, loyal clientele. The food is good, strait forward and affordable. Albert does not mince words and he told me about the high taxes he was paying on another 1-star Michelin restaurant that he ended up selling to focus on his smaller restaurant. He is glad that he made the change so he can spend time with his girlfriend and their new baby.
I thought about how it had been a long time since we were partners in crime, going to night clubs in Paris on just a small budget. Although we worked in a great restaurant at the time, it did not pay well! After Cagna, Albert went to work for Robuchon and I went to Carre des Feuillants.
After our diner at Le Petit Pergolese, Philippe encouraged me to go to Hotel Costes. I explained the problem we had with Manuel but he was sure he could get us in. In fact he did and I finally got to see the crowd that was there. The people were handsome and pretty but they were not very helpful or smiling. It was there that we finally saw some “Top Chefs.” I had just been watching the show the night before on TV. At one point I turned around and there were the two finalists living their 15 minutes of fame!
After a quick drink, we met the chef of Costes in another restaurant. He was having dinner with the owner of the restaurant who knew Gilbert Lecoze (the owner of Le Bernardin who passed away 18 years ago).
When I got back to the hotel it was already late and I still had to pack for my flight leaving the next morning. Once I started packing and my suitcase got fuller and fuller, I started to get a little worried. Then as I tried to close the suitcase and the zipper started to break, I got really worried. I finally figured out a way to close my luggage without causing permanent damage. What I did not realize it that while I sat on my suitcase to make it close, I also ended up breaking a gift plate that I received at the Master Chef ceremony! That was not the end of my troubles because at the airport I was running around like a crazy person with all my luggage…
Fortunately, after arriving in Houston the customs people did not bother me; and I made it back with everything else intact. It was difficult traveling with so much stuff but it was worth it once I got back home to Houston. I may be tired and poor from my trip but I’m happy to be back home!
French lesson of the day: “Les voyages forment la jeunesse”… si les baggages ne sont trop lourd!
Translation (figurative): “Travel broadens the mind”…and the shoulders if the luggage is not too heavy.