Buzz - Fou de France

By Margaret Kemp “You know how some kids want to be firemen when they grow up, well from the age of 3, I only ever wanted to be a chef”. This is the true confession of Frédéric Coursol, the second Fou de France chef, discovered and invited by Alain Ducasse, to create a menu for the Relais Plaza. “I had a toy van which I would fill with vegetables and fruits and deliver them to myself!”
 
Coursol was just wiping round his plate (he’d come to Paris to support Francis Gabarrus, this week’s Fou), the “supreme de poulet jaune de Landes au foie gras et langoustine,” having delighted in the Velouté de cresson au petoncles emulsion de nage a l’huile de noisettes (freebie starter) and a picture perfect Marbré d’anguilles de l’Ardour fumés au magret et poireaux, brochette d’huitres grilles. So we chatted as we waited for the pudd: Gateau moelleux aux fruits secs poire rôtie et glace au parfum de pin de Landes. Obviously we’d washed it down with the excellent wines of Jurancon winemaker Jean-Bernard Larrieu: “Vintage Vielh de Lapeyre 2001” and the moelleux “La Magenda de Lapeyre 2002.”
 
“After my Fou de France in October 2003, everything took off”, explains Gabarrus. Bien sûr, he had a faithful clientele at his “Le Radio” located in the Auvergne region (read Clermont Ferrand) for which he has a Michelin star. “But the point is, with my trip to Paris and the support of Monsieur Ducasse, I have the confidence to create.”  Gabarrus’ dishes include such marvels as Les Infusions de Saint Jacques with caviar, and he does things to the local Bourbonnais chicken that make grown men weep! So it’s touching that he’s come to support this week’s star from the Aquitaine region, at Saubusse -- where the Ardour River flows through, time has stood still, and they hardly know from tourists!  His restaurant Villa Stings (nothing to do with the real Sting!) is a X1X marvel he converted, with his wife. They met when he worked for Ducasse; she’s a patissier!
 
“The couple understand perfectly the riches of their region and work the products with terrific talent,” confirms Ducasse, sitting with his chefs like a proud father. It makes you think doesn’t it, the importance of being à table in France, instead of lining up outside a McDonald’s? These guys are white with fatigue, prepared to do anything to live their passion, impressive, n’est pas? Gabarrus says his inspiration comes from his world travels, also from time spent at Maxim’s (with Michel Kerever), with Joel Robuchon,
Alain Ducasse, Jacques Lameloise and his Maitre, Jean-Marie Meulien at Le Close Longchamp, Paris.
 
“When you’re in a small provincial village the impact of Fou de France is phenomenal,” he agrees with Coursol. “More clients means I can afford to hire more staff, everything works better, it’s being part of a family,” he smiles looking lovingly at Ducasse. Don’t be surprised to see the 2005 Michelin dubbing Francis of Aquitaine with a Michelin star. You heard it here first!  But you’re family, too.
 
Meanwhile thought I’d take a quick look next door at Restaurant Alain Ducasse where Christophe Moret heads the most hi-tech cuisines this side of NASA. Patrick Jouin has refreshed the décor, unwrapped the chandeliers, hung them with Swarovski crystals, it’s Alice aux pays de merveilles. Read all about it – coming soon.
 
Francis Gabarrus,
Villa Stings,
Rue du Port, 40180,
T: 05 58 57 70 18
 
Vins de Jurancon,
Le Close Lapeyre,
Jean-Bernard Larrieu,
Route des Vins,
“La Chapelle de Rousse”,
64110. Jurancon.
www.lapeyreenjurancon.com
T: 05 59 21 50 80
 
Relais Plaza,
21 avenue Montaigne, 8th (Metro: Franklin D.Roosevelt)
T: 01 58 47 95 59
 
Fréderic Coursol,
Hotel Radio,
42 Avenue Pierre et Marie Curie,
63400 Chamalieres.
T: 04 73 31 16 99.
 
And talking of stars: Michelin Red Guide to Great Britain & Ireland is published this week:

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