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. Enjoy!
As I unpacked my things at the hotel in Paris, I thought about how after all these years living in America, I was finally keeping up with French news. However I did not expect to connect with everything considering I would be living in a bubble with my intense schedule. That is when I thought of two people that I really wish I could have seen on this trip, Sylivia and Virginie. No, it’s not what you are thinking…
Sylvia is one of my very best friends. She was a manager at La Goulue in New York after graduating from the most notorious hotel and restaurant management school in the world and located in Lausanne, Switzerland. I used to stay at her apartment during some of my trips (she lived on my favorite street in Paris, rue Mouffetard – near the Pantheon). It’s on a hill with the market and I used to walk there every morning looking at all the fresh ingredients and small kiosks.
I wish my old assistant Virginie was still in Paris too. Instead, she recently took a great job in New York City for the next two years. She would have been able to give me an additional and actual assessment on Paris.
Both of these smart, working women could have also been another source of information for Manuel since I did not want him to see Paris through only my eyes – but from actual Parisians!
Fortunately I would meet one of my good friends, Stephanie, that night who also worked at La Goulue many years ago and who has been a great source of information about many things including art – her forte. She used to run a small art gallery in NY in the past and is very much connected to young talents from Paris and France!
I snapped out of my day dream as I finished unpacking my bags. I had just enough time to run to Mama Shelter in the 20th arrondissement before meeting Philippe, Stephanie and her husband for dinner. Mama Shelter is one of those places that I’ve been hearing about for a couple of years now so I had to go, even if it was on my own in a long taxi ride across town. I had a quick (and great) cocktail at this trendy hotel and lounge that is hidden away in a completely out of sight, residential and popular part of Paris. This place is a big “bric-a-brac”, very eclectic mix of furniture; the ceiling is at a slant with all sorts of writing, it is cool and relaxing but a mess in the design. It was confusing, at least for me, but it could also be the reason why people feel comfortable in this place which seems to not care about perception! Their motto must be “You dress the way you want, and we will furnish the way we want!”
Once I had visited Mama Shelter, another Stark creation by the way, I was back in the saddle and galloping to the Shangri-la Hotel. Yes, I was already a little late for my reservation!
This place is a huge palace. The outside is almost overwhelming when you approach the entrance. It is not my taste in décor, but it is very luxurious! There are three restaurants in the hotel. We went to the gastronomic restaurant (l’Abeille), aka the most expensive…after all the reputation as we learned from Philippe Tailleur (the director of Bread and Roses) is that they give you a day to digest the food and one more day to digest the bill!! Humm, what were we in for?
Well, we all set down in a small and luxurious dining room. The service was a little pompous but very attentive. The food was great and beautifully presented but served warm, not hot. I learned about this technique from the Corporate Chef of Marc Veyrat (3 star Michelin in Annecy). He explained – at one of my most pleasurable dining experiences at the restaurant of Laurent Petit, Le Clos des Sens – that some restaurants are doing such special and difficult plating techniques that it became a trend to serve warm food.
We were served some extra amuse bouches before the appetizer and extras desserts with petits fours and chocolates. I guess you get a little extra with the big bill you pay in a 2 star Michelin restaurant in Paris!!
Here are a few photos of the dishes we tried and the lovely cheese chariot!
Have a great Memorial Day weekend. I will be back on Tuesday with the next post from the trip.
French lesson of the day: Quel beau plateau de fromage!
Translation: What a beautiful cheese platter!