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Buzz - Le Louis XV“Products, it’s all about products, look at these gamberoni, I bought them in San Remo early this morning.” This is Franck Cerutti, chef at the Louis XV, Monte Carlo. We have popped in to say hello in his subterranean kitchen the size of two tennis courts. A forty-something Gene Wilder look-alike, Nice-born Cerutti has been executive chef de cuisine in Monte Carlo since 1996,” although I worked here for two years from 1987-1989.”
“I met Monsieur Ducasse (they’re very formal in this business; as the staff come in they shake hands with each other, “bonjour monsieur,” they say, shake, shake, shake) when we were both at the Hotel Juana, Juan les Pins.” Cerutti explains. He also cut his mustard at the Lycée Hôtelier, worked with Jacques Maximin and at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence. “Then I went off to open my own restaurant in Nice, the Don Camillo.” The bistro was a huge success, and when the call came from Ducasse he kept his restaurant going for a while, but wanted to concentrate all his energy in Monte Carlo.
“Sit down, sit down,” he says. And we’re in the Acquarium, the mini dining-room, adjacent to the cavernous kitchens, near the pass. It was designed by Ducasse so he could invite friends and cook at the same time (now everyone’s copied the idea). Also, when they’re testing new dishes, the équipe crowd into the Acquarium and you can still see what’s going on throughout every inch of the shiny steel and glass cuisines, with 6 closed-circuit TV screens scanning every move they make, every breath they take.
The menu, which changes with the seasons, is Mediterranean music composed by Cerutti and Monsieur Ducasse, played out by the 20 white-toqued staff, working in perfect harmony: sharp knives slicing through fingers and fish, oil sizzling in pans, you get the picture. There’s even a commis posted at a table folding napkins! Upstairs, in the Louis XV dining room, leave the table and the napkin is replaced, somebody has to fold it; origami.
It’s lunch; so Cerutti says “stay, watch, eat.” No problem! The beginning of the rush (and they’re full every service--only enough room for 50) is signalled with the arrival of a small piece of white paper: the first order. As the bums settle above on the Louis chairs there will be lots of bits of paper pinned up on the service hatch, which bears the legend SILENCE AT THE PASS! They’re all working furiously; the assistant chef yells the orders. “Oui, chef,” “Straight Away, chef,” they all reply. It’s an opera.
It’s also amazing how it all comes together. Cerutti is yelling at someone, then decides it’s time to garnish, season and serve…off go heavy silver trays, heaved onto shoulders, off to the dining room, up there, in mini-Versailles, where the air is perfumed with Monte Cristos, Chanel and beautiful flowers, on tables that have taken 20 minutes to set to perfection. There, where captains of industry, local royalty and celebs select, from the cellar’s 300,000 bottles, a wine to match a dish of “Poitrine de Pigeonneau des Alpes de Haute-Provençe, foie gras de canard et pommes de terre nouvelles sur la braise, jus gouteaux aux abats. Perhaps a Domaine Tempier “La Tourtine” 1998 Bandol from Monsieur Peyraud (the price? don’t ask). If you’re lucky enough to catch some of Cerutti’s morning-caught gamberoni “du Golfe de Genes sautés, faux mille feuille a l’artichaut, tomate et girolles, vinaigrette d’anchois et de citrons piles au mortier,” a Château Margillière 2002 a coteaux Varois from Monsieur Caternet will go down nicely, thank you.
At the Louis XV there are at least ten different breads, baked and created by the in-house baker. Different butters, two cheese trolleys, and, from the patisserie headed by Olivier Berger, a stunning selection of desserts, ice creams, chocolates, madeleines. Nothing is too much trouble, and there’s no budget. “Just the best,” they all agree in unison.
Cerutti lives in old Nice, with his wife and two daughters. (One’s at hotel school near Lyon, so that must be good news for the culinary world.) “It’s noisy, but I’m so tired by the time I get home I just go straight to sleep,” he admits. Early in the morning you’ll catch him in his garden--that’s the Cours Saleya market--, where he knows all the little producers. “When I go up to Paris to teach at ADF (Alain Ducasse Formation, the cookery school at Argenteuil) I take huge boxes of produce. “How can you show students how to cook courgettes de Nice or fresh peas or artichokes without the real thing?” he shrugs. “So you can hardly see me for boxes, but it’s worth, it,” he smiles. “Products, it’s all about products,” he says, shaking our hands and heading off in the direction of a brilliant new olive oil producer he’s found in the hills above Nice.
Discretion means Cerutti and Monsieur Ducasse don’t name clients who eat upstairs or below stairs, but you should know that you can book to eat in the Aquarium, just ask when you call and book, and if it’s available, you’ll have the experience of a lifetime.
Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse,
Open from Thurs-Mon and Wednesday for dinner during July and August.
Lunch 90€ + A La Carte
Dinner 150€-180€ + A La Carte
Hotel de Paris, Place du Casino,
T: +377 92 16 30 01
I’m sure Elton John and his partner David Furnish eat at the Louis XV, a sort of home away from their elegant home (s). It was reported last week that at home(s) they only eat from Gianni Versace china, “because his spirit lives on in every plate!” How very zen.
Meanwhile, over the border in Italy, where Cerutti finds his gamberoni, the Italian Union of Fruit and Vegetable producers announce they’re bringing in Master Tasters for fruit and veg; really! The union aims to introduce a fruit list and fruit and veg tasters in chic Italian trattorias to work alongside the sommeliers. Onafruit is the name of the National Association that will organize the training. This gives new meaning to the “please don’t squeeze me ‘til I’m yours” notice on display in my local greengrocers. Well, I suppose it’s a career opportunity for a fruit and veg lover.
Watch out for Christian Constant, who’ll be opening his new Café Constant on the corner of rue St.- Dominique very soon.
Zut alors! Don’t go rushing off to Gordes to see Michel del Burgo at the stoves of his renovated Auberge. He’s gone! Like a very angry bat out of hell. The fiery former chef chez Taillevent, Paris, is rumoured to be taking up a new post in Paris; seems he’s packed up his poivrades and left La Bastide de Gordes, Vaucluse. Odd, as he had plans to set up a spa, boutique, a bistro and more rooms. Perhaps the locals were not too keen on his transforming their quiet village into a Burgo-King type location; look what happened to poor old José Bove.