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"Please don’t call my cuisine “fusion”, asks William Ledeuil, of Ze Kitchen Galerie, the left bank brasserie, formerly the RATP (railway workers) canteen. “It’s a meeting of cultures, cross references and a result of my travels, my reading and my passion”, he explains. Since it opened, two years ago, Ze Kitchen Galerie has been playing to packed houses. Not only a bright funky setting with primary coloured painted brick walls, Starck settings, and open kitchen, but also a contemporary art gallery where talented painters, sculptors and plasticians such as Jacques Bosser, Thibaut de Reimpré, Tony Soulié, Léopold Gest, Daniel Humair get a chance to display their creations alongside one of the most innovative chefs in Paris. Think Saatchi-sur-Seine.
Vietnam, Japan, Thailand are all major influences on Ledeuil’s dishes, “but always with a base of French tradition culinaire”, he insists. “My products are organic, I’m very conscious of this, as are most chefs in France today. To understand Ledeuil’s philosophy, go back to his childhood in the Sancerre where he grew up among the vineyards. “We hardly ever went to restaurants, home cooking was all we knew, and it was good. It wasn’t until I arrived in Paris that I discovered the magical world of restaurants”, he recalls. His brother raises beef on a farm, organic, bien sûr, and Ledeuil says his passion for cooking is inspired by his family – boy do they have recipes.
The teenage Ledeuil went for a degree in commerce, with a view to starting in the hotel business. But, as luck would have it, he was offered a place at the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Français. On his graduation he cheffed for a young maverick who had a small restaurant on rue Duret, in the 16th arrondissement: Guy Savoy! “From Savoy I learned how to make the best of the best products”, he says. Then he went on to finish his formation with Alain Dutournier at Le Carré des Feuillants. “Subsequently I returned to Guy Savoy (by now in rue Troyon) and worked at Savoy’s prêt-a-porter, Bistro de l’Etoile and Cap Vernet brasseries. Susequently, Savoy asked me to set up a left-bank bistro for him, called Les Bookinistes. I was there for ten years, until I had the chance to “go-it-alone” just along the road from Les Bookinistes”. The rest is Paris gastro gossip; Ze Kitchen Galerie was born.
Fast cooking means Ledeuil’s food is nutritional, it’s all about perfumes and flavours, not mixed but used so that you can identify each herb and ingredient: lemongrass, Thai chile peppers, turmeric. “We have the best of everything in Paris. I go to all the markets: President Wilson, Raspail, Chinatown. I can find everything I need here—my father-in-law grows galanga in his herb garden which is every bit as good as I find in the markets of Bangkok!” Ze Kitchen Galerie’s cuisine is light, based on Thai but, “I use very little coconut milk, no butter or cream”, he says. I make jus, purées, emulsions, bouillons and marinades which blend, bind and season”, he says. There’s a lot of grilling a la plancha, the Spring menu includes: l’aile de raie pochée-grillé, jus de citronelle et tempura de legumes. Try the soothing bouillon de poulet, escargots, coco plats et kachai, like Mother’s chicken soup with a kick! A fine example of what Ledeuil is trying to say is his Rable de lapereau en marinade d’arichide-moutarde et brochette, poélée de sarrasin et riz sauvage. Wines are mostly French, ask Cedric Marechal, the Director of the Salle, for his favourite Cotes du Roussillon Villages, Domaine des Chenes, from Razungles & fils. (€28.20) or a white Chateau Suau Bordeaux Sec from M. Bonnet (€28.30).
Ledeuil goes to Bangkok at least once a year to relax, meet his Thai counterparts, go to market and eat. “The Celadon restaurant at The Sukothai Hotel is the best I know”, he reveals. The chefs prepare feasts for the palate, delicate balances of herbs and seasonings; create a multitude of taste and colour sensations. All this is served in the middle of a lotus pond! Bliss!”
Friends are always asking for recipes, clients come to the open kitchen to glean a bit of knowledge, taste a soothing spoon of peanut ice-cream with macaron, fleur de sel and sauce pistachio. So what about a book? “I will do that one day”, he promises. But, even more exciting, Ledeuil plans Ateliers de Cuisine-Decouverte. “Not cookery lessons, but I’ll show how to incorporate into your everyday recipes Asian products that will blow your mind!” Sounds good to me, sign up on 01 44 32 00 32 – See you there.
4 rue des Grands Augustins, 6th
Métro: Saint Michel/Pont Neuf
T: 01 44 32 00 32
Shut Saturday lunch/Sunday
13/3 South Sathorn Road
T: 848 827 5839
Bon Appetit – à la semaine prochaine...