Behind the Line @ Laurent, Paris

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.

Laurent
41 Avenue Gabriel
75008 Paris, France

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  • http://twitter.com/BigToys L. Derek Young

    Awesome bonus to see behind the scenes at Laurent. I had a fantastic experience in their dining room a few years back. Your notes and pics really bring back some good memories and makes it special all over again.
    Thanks

  • Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf

    wow !! what an experience. and what outstanding presentations on these dishes above. just incredible. love that colorful root vegetable starter. i can imagine you came home just bubbling over in excitement and ideas !! can’t wait to hear more about the trip, see more gorgeous photos and see what you end up cooking in *your* kitchen ! =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562161966 Nawal ZERROUNI

    Hi Stéphane ;)
    Encore de Superbes Photos, j’étais impatiente de lire ton compte rendu de cette semaine Parisienne “Studieuse” mais pas que !
    Merci pour cette remarquable incursion dans les Belles Cuisines du Laurent.
    De magnifiques assiettes à n’en point douter et même cette vinaigrette de vin vieux à la Truffe me laisse rêveuse ;)
    La suite, la suite Please …

  • http://mayssam.tumblr.com mayssam

    Les photos sont superbes et les assiettes ont l’air sublimes! Can’t wait to see the rest and of course, what you come up with after such an inspiring week!

  • http://www.kitchenoffriends.com Dillon

    Very inspiring to read about the operations at Laurent, and that root vegetable dish looks like a work of art, it would be very hard for me to eat it lol

  • http://twitter.com/GourmetFury Melody Fury ♥ Food!

    I’m not only drooling over the food, but also on the pots and pans. Take me with you one of these days, damnit!

  • jenjenk

    Ok, tell the truth – what was it like to be back in the kitchen again? was the pace painful??? or did you just slide right back in again?

    More importantly, did you get a chance to meet up with Claire?? I miss that girl!!

  • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Those root vegetable rolls look irresistible! What a fascinating look behind the scenes and as Melody said, not just WOW on the food but all that beautiful equipment :-) Can’t wait to read more!

  • http://twitter.com/KitchenM Em

    This is like a restaurant review from behind the scenes, which is only possible to a very few selected people, like you! Thanks for sharing the experience. Everything looks Amazing.

  • Anonymous

    Cool! I’m glad you actually ate there!

  • Anonymous

    Yup! I’m the lucky one! Thanks Em.

  • Anonymous

    I know, right! Those plates are really labor intensive!

  • Stacey Snacks

    How fabulous that you are a VIP with full access in the kitchen.
    We did not dine at Laurent last time, but will try to get in on our next visit.
    Enjoy!

  • Anonymous

    I wish I could have been there with you! Paris is my all-time favorite city for so many reasons, only one (huge) reason is the food. Great stuff!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1405246165 Frank A Fariello Jr

    It may seem odd but the thing that really got me in this post were those gorgeous copper pots… Amazing that in a professional kitchen they can manage to keep them beautiful and shining like that…