I was lucky to spent time in three different restaurants with some very talented chefs in Paris last week. It was for me a return to my roots to inspire myself, learn new techniques and bring back this newfound knowledge back to my kitchen.
I started at Le Laurent on monday in one of the most seductive pavilions in the gardens off the Champs-Elysées. The building started life as a hunting lodge for Louis XIV, it then became a dance hall during the Revolution before becoming a restaurant. The kitchen is now headed by a talented chef, Alain Pégouret, who prior to joining Le Laurent worked at the Hotel Nikko, Jamin with Joel Robuchon, Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel de Crillon and Le Violon d’Ingres. His cuisine is rooted in classic techniques but the presentations are modern and the quality of the ingredients used is just sublime.
The first thing that strikes you when you work at Le Laurent is how big the staff is. Between the cooks and waitstaff there are over 50 professionals working every service and there’s even a restaurant within the restaurant, a cafeteria that serves the employees lunch and dinner. The logistics of the operation are quite complex but somehow each service becomes a ballet of people doing what they’re supposed to do in the most harmonious manner.
The kitchen works with the precision of a swiss watch under to the watchful eye of Alain Pégouret who rarely leaves it. A lot of dishes on the menus are labor intensive, the cooking is precise, the presentations are meticulous and as a results the service is fairly quiet with the occasional shouting from Mr Pégouret when someone doesn’t perform properly. He calls it “sabotage”.
A typical lunch service can accommodate between 70 and 90 guests who need to be served within a 90 minutes period so there’s no much room for error when the dining room is filled with high-ranking politicians, artists and businessmen.
Since I was granted full access I put on my chef’s white and helped out, asked questions, scribbled notes and took photos. Everyone was more than willing to share their knowledge, recipes and tricks. I was particularly fond of a “Fregola sarda” risotto with black truffles in a foam of vin d’Artois, a white wine from the Jura region. Fregola sarda is pasta – Italian couscous to be precise, made by rubbing tiny grains of semolina together with a bit of water, toasting them, until it looks like Israeli couscous but more rustic. Chef Pégouret turns it into an amazing risotto which i will try to make soon.
There’s a truffle vinaigrette used in a few dishes i was crazy about, it starts by macerating truffles in Vin Vieux for three months..
Roots vegetables “rolls” with purees, seasoned aromatics and spicy oils is a popular appetizer on the menu, it consists of many root vegetables with different characteristics from sweet to slightly bitter, accentuated with vegetables purees, vinegars and flavored oils. It sounds simple but there’s a lot going on to accomplish the harmony of this dish. It’s presented to look like the palette of a painter.
As in any kitchen of this standard, it’s the less young chefs that sets the tone and looks over the shoulders of the young cooks. The saucier (meat/sauce station) could juggle countless sauces at the same time, making them fresh every morning and perfect in terms of taste, texture and color and still be aware that his young helper was making a mistake on the other side of the kitchen.
Another classic of Le Laurent is a spider crab with lobster gelee and a fennel cream presented in a martini glass. Light, fresh, clever and absolutely delicious. Many more stood out like the loin and saddle of baby lamb from the “Pyrénées”, browned kidney with parsley, stuffed violet artichokes (first photo on this post), the frog legs slightly browned, watercress and parsley and a garlic flowers foam was particularly beautiful. The pommes souffle served with meat dishes like the roasted quail were just perfect. There’s too many dishes to mention on this post but if you stop by Paris, go and see for yourself.
41 Avenue Gabriel
75008 Paris, France
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Tags: Famous chef