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!
I slept in on Friday morning since we had been up the night before until 4:30am visiting the market at Rungis. Fortunately, we didn’t have a reservation until 12:30 at our next highlight of the trip, the restaurant of Thierry Marx, Sur Mesure. It is located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel which is another palace similar to the Shangri-La that I had visited on Tuesday night.
Thierry Marx was just awarded 2 Michelin stars this year. He is an avant garde chef doing a lot of molecular cuisine of very high quality. He is often referred to as Planet Marx because what he does can be so “far out there.” He is also a judge of Top Chef, just like Jean-François Piège that I talked about last week.
We were seated and we chose our menus. Manuel and I each ordered a 7 course meal while Philippe Pantoli decided on just 5 courses! Only a chef of this level can dare to do something like lobster claw in squid ink making it look burned. Of course it was not. Some of the dishes were quite technical and the server had to keep going back and forth to the kitchen to make it work. I guess being such a creative chef is risky business sometimes! We also had caviar that came with a very dramatic presentation (see video below). Even our desserts were spectacular with some very elaborate presentations. Of course the wine that went with our lunch was chosen by one of the best sommeliers in France – a Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny – a wine from the grape Cabernet Franc, light bodied, savory, herbal with bright cherry notes.
While this was an expensive place, the portions were appropriate making for a satisfying meal. The dishes were adventurous but the food was accessible. I really enjoyed the experience! The only critic would be that despite the modern all white design, the acoustics were questionable especially if you come here to do business.
I mentioned in a previous post that it is often difficult to find work in the country regions of France, so hospitality industry workers end up going to the big cities and especially Paris to find work. This is also true for famous chefs. I have spoken to chefs over the last few years that have explained how heavy the taxes can be on their business. Some go to Paris to have a better chance of being more financially successful and having more media attention in a bigger market, while others choose to work for someone else, like for a big, luxurious hotel in the case of Thierry Marx. This allows those chefs to leave the business part to someone else while they focus on their art. They can also bring prestige to a big hotel so it works well for both parties.
After our lunch, we did some more shopping and then got ready for our last evening in Paris. Check back tomorrow to hear about my final dinner with Manuel…but not our last meal in Paris!
French lesson of the day: Parfois être chef peut être un métier à risque!
Translation: Sometimes being a chef can be risky business!