Buzz: chefs, chefs and more chefs

By Margaret Kemp
Christophe Leroy's culinary career began in 1978 at a restaurant near the family home in Normandy.  He continued his parcours with "a tour de France" of top restaurants, training with the likes of Alain Ducasse at the Louis XV; Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton; the Crillon, Paris; Jacques Maximin at Chantecler, in the Hôtel Negresco, Nice; the Hôtel de la Poste, Avallon; and the Juana, Juan-les-Pins. Timing is all- important in cooking, as it is in life, and when Leroy arrived in St-Tropez's Château de la Messadière rock icon Johnny Halliday asked him to create a banquet to celebrate his marriage to Adeline. Leroy's "soupe de pommes de terres glacée aux truffes" is now considered his signature dish. "And I realised that life should be a party," he admits.

Subsequently, Leroy set about planning and cooking for jet-set parties on the beaches and yachts of St-Tropez, and at present in his restaurants (La Table du Marché, Les Moulins de Ramatuelle and The Hotel des Dromants, Avoriaz).Leroy's annual "Pique Nique" and the July 7th  "Bal Masqué", are the most coveted invitations of the season. He lives with his wife, Fabienne, and daughter Victoire in St-Tropez and, this year, has a new chef-pâtissier:  his brother Richard.

 "My life is spent defying and defining trends, getting people together, and cooking. I thrive on the atmosphere that comes from a well-run restaurant. It's not only the food that's important, but details, details, details; call it alchemy. When I'm, say, in Paris and I go to Costes, I know that the brothers have put heart and soul into their hotels and restaurants, I can feel their in-put, hear their music. The dishes I eat have the Costes signature behind them, the finest fresh ingredients, prepared simply.

I enjoy driving to Monaco, for the excitement, the elegance and the contrast from St-Tropez. The evening begins with a flute of champagne at the Café de Paris, and then it's on to Rampoldi for risotto, fresh fish grilled in a salt crust, an osso buco or delicious escalope milanaise. Afterwards a stroll around Casino square admiring the exotic cars, motobikes and people.

Saturday morning, my ritual is chez Sennequier, where I buy nougat, read my newspapers and magazine, and eat breakfast facing the quays and the yachts; some are futuristic white gin palaces, some gleaming teak classics, all are the stuff of dreams. Or, to make a change, I stroll over to the Hôtel Sube and grab one of the six places on the sunny terrace, order an espresso, drink a cognac and watch the live movie that is St-Tropez..

Then it's off to market at Place des Lices, where I choose a juicy jambon roti from the butcher who raises and roasts his pigs to perfection. That's the basis for our summer picnic, which we take onto a boat, rented for the day, from Mercurio boats. Once on board we potter around enjoying the sea breeze, soaking up the sun, and then head off for the azur waters just opposite Le Lavendou. The wine comes from Domaine Ott, a signature name for the South of France and the bounty that it produces. There are three historic Ott domains in the heart of Côtes de Provence country: Clos Mireille, Château Romassan and 18th century Château de Selle, whose vineyards are located on land once home to the Count of Provence. The surrounding estate, entirely carved into the rocky land by Marcel Ott, has been in the same family since 1912. 

The beaches of St-Tropez are for people-watching, to catch the latest trend, which I am happy to say is mostly minimal beachwear! La Voile Rouge is always buzzing, beautiful people dancing on the tables, spraying Louis Roederer Cristal champagne and partying like mad. It's a little more relaxing at Club 55, and that's where I go with my family and friends on Sundays for a convivial lunch of, say, le feuilleté Ramatuelle, morning line-caught grilled fish, a herbed rack of lamb and the delicious signature tarte Tropeziènne! Or there's plage Tropicana, famous for spicy stuffed sardines.

In Cannes, at lunchtime, I sit with my toes in the sea admiring the beautifully presented dishes at La Plage du Carlton. That's the best buffet I know, and don't forget I put on a pretty good spread myself, not only in my restaurants, but also for some really sensational parties! I love my profession, it's hard work but extremely satisfying. My friend Clement Bruno at Lorgues shares my joie de vivre. To eat chez Bruno is the finest demonstration of the "art de recevoir" I know, who can resist his truffle combinations at any time of the year? Nothing makes Bruno and I happier than to drive to Collobrieres for the Chestnut Festival, eat lunch or dinner in a tiny village brasserie and take home jams and goat cheeses from Loic de Saleneyve whose chestnut trees spread in all directions. You can also find Loic in the market at Saint Tropezl".

Address Book:

Hotel Costes
239 rue Saint Honore,
75001, Paris.
T: 01 42 44 50 00

Rampoldi
3, avenue des Spelugues,
Monaco.
T: 00 377 93 30 70 70 65

Club 55
43 boulevard Patch,
St. Tropez,
T: 04 94 79 80 14

Plage Tropicana
Route de Bonne Terrasse,
T: 04 94 79 83 96

Villa Belrose, (P.1497 Michelin)
Boulevard Cretes, Gassin,
T: 04 94 55 97 98

Le Bacon
Boulevard de Bacon, Antibes,
T: 04 93 61 50 02

Chez Bruno
Route des Arcs,
T: 04 94 85 93 93

La Plage du Carlton
58 boulevard de la Croisette,
Cannes
T: 04 93 06 40 06

Marche des Lices
Place des Lices, (every Tues & Sat morning)

Senequier
Quai Jean Jaures,
T: 04 94 97 00 90

Hotel Sube
15 Quai du Suffren,
Saint Tropez.
T: 04 94 97 30 04


Loic de Saleneyve
Les Canebières,
T: 04 94 48 07 20
Collobrières.

Need a few more addresses? Leroy recommends the fabulous Guide Gantiè 2003 Provence-Côte d'Azur. Written in French and English, generously stuffed with delicious addresses, not only for restaurants but also where to buy remarkable products, find a charming room for the night. A helpful glossary translates the difficult menu stuff: do you know what à la poutargue, à la brousse or micocoulier means? Ha….do what I did, get the Gantié.

Jacques Gantié and his gourmet guides (I see them clearly, fat little people with watering mouths and big bellies! Although Monsieur G. is extremely slim) have also visited the Ligurie and Piedmont regions, plus they know exactly where to find Mediterranean cuisine in Paris. "In 20 years of gastronomic reporting and over 12 years of producing my guide I have witnessed the culinary world of Provence and the Côte d'Azur reconstruct itself like few other regions in France," observes the genial gentleman Gantiè.

Have a look on www.guidegantie.com
Editions ROM - 19 boulevard Carabacel 06000, Nice.
T: 04 93 92 88 88

Bon Appetit - A la semaine prochaine.

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