French Food Confidential

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“Put fresh grouse in the freezer for 14 days, then marinate them in milk”, advises Philippe Legendre of Le Cinq restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel George V.   The slim shady superchef is a keen hunter who stalks his prey, not only in the Sologne, but also on the Scottish moors. “I love Scotland, and the Scottish people, they are so welcoming. I stay at a simple guest house and the hosts always make sure the local baker bakes croissants for my breakfast”, he sighs.   Le Cinq is probably the only Paris restaurant serving grouse and haggis, drizzled with aged malt Scotch whiskey, to delighted gastronomes who can’t get enough of it. Legendre says that his recipe for freezing grouse should be applied to other game birds such as pigeon, partridge and wood pigeon. All of which feature on the Menu Gibiers. When Legendre packed up his knives and forks—after 18 years at Taillevent, and 3-Michelin stars—he received carte blanche from Didier Le Calvez, George V’s General Manager.   Bon idée, since soon after Le Cinq won a second macaron from the Red Guide (Michelin) and recently Legendre was named Chef of the Year by the Pudlo 2003 Paris Guide. Le Cinq’s dining room is magnificent, just look at Jeff Leatham’s lavish floral creations. “Flowers bring out the passion in people as much as a good meal”, maintains Leatham—who hails from Ogden, Utah—via LA, Las Vegas, Cairo and Prague.   Think about it, ten years ago, it was so uncool, only Aunt Martha and Uncle Ted ate in hotel dining rooms. Now they are the height of branchitude; think Plaza Athenée, Le Meurice, Le Crillon, The Ritz, The Bristol. Also think about the excellent teams in the dining room, making you feel like the only person in the salle. How can you not fall in love with the delightful Eric Beaumard, not only Restaurant Manager but also Head Sommelier and Meilleur Sommelier du Monde 1998.   Brittany born Beaumard trained as a chef, but a motorbike accident in 1984 put chef-ing on the back burner and he became fascinated with wine. “I re-invented myself”, he grins. “This is my life now”, he says, affectionately patting the leather-bound wine-list. “In my own kitchens I am really free to express my creativity”, Legendre says. Supported by a team of 70 chefs and Arnaud de Faletans, the Pastry Chef. Legendre uses only the finest seasonal products which transmit their unique regional flavours to his interpretation of each dish. “I think that the cuisine of tomorrow will be that of the regions”, he reflects. “We must accentuate our culinary heritage”, insists Legendre.   His menu Propositions du Marché showcases, say, terrine of hare from Beauce, rabbit from the Garenne region, Chicken from Touraine, lentils from Puy, Figs from Provence. “Top-chrono, this menu (choice of 4 starters, 6 mains and 3 desserts) can be served in 50 minutes”, promises Beaumard. “But we prefer to keep our guests a little longer!” Legendre, born in the Vendée region of northwest France recalls; “from the age of 8, watching my mother, grandmother and my great-aunt in the kitchen, I knew I wanted to be a chef”. No time for sports, little time to read, Legendre says he always finds time for nature, and can’t resist the aroma of the woods around his house, after rain.   Hunting in the winter, preparing the game for the table then, before you can turn round, the darling buds of May; a little restaurant that only serves a plat du jour, a convivial meal surrounded by his wife and four children. Hurry to Le Cinq for the warm welcome, the elegant salle, the richness of the wine cellar (30,000 bottles in the cellar) and most of all to taste the exquisite dishes of a chef dedicated to, “providing guests with an exceptional experience”. It is. And oooooh those flowers!   Le Cinq31 Avenue George V. 8th (Métro: George V) T: 01 49 52 70 00 www.fourseasons.com Menus at 60€ (Lunch) 90€ – 148€ – 190€ + wine + A la Carte.   Every chef dreams of his own restaurant; at the star studded opening he will serve champagne and foie gras to his hungry, curious and delighted guests. How many chefs can claim to have welcomed Paul Bocuse and Pierre Troisgros, godfathers of French culinary art, to their opening?   You got it in one—Alain Ducasse. Each and every day since Ducasse was apprenticed at Alain Chapel’s eponymous Lyon establishment, he thinks of his spiritual master who left for that great kitchen in the sky in 1989. Chapel, alongside Bocuse and Troisgros, had himself been an apprentice to the great Fernand Point. Ducasse remembers learning from Chapel that, “the duty of a good cuisinier is to transmit to the next generation everything he has learned and experienced”.   “I always knew I would dedicate a restaurant to Monsieur Chapel and the fabulous cuisine Lyonnais”, says Ducasse. So, just around the corner from the Bourse, opposite the Belle Époque Opéra Comique, stands the red-painted Aux Lyonnais, as it has since 1890. Without seeming to have laid a finger on the marjorelle, Ducasse has revised and corrected the old place with elegance and humour, created a BCBG bouchon with zinc bar, the better for popping in to eat a hard-boiled egg, drink a glass of Côtes de Rhone and have a chat with the young chef Christophe Saintagne (trained by Ducasse at The Plaza Athenée).   Pretend not to notice Johnny Halliday and Laetitia, Jane Birkin and Arielle Dombasle with Bernard Henri-Levi. Check out the oak-tables and the starched red-striped linen. The excellent wines are chosen by Gerard Margeon to match the food. Dip Eric Kayser’s chunky crusty pain maison into a bowl of la cervelle de Canuts and choose from a menu that changes daily, according to Saintagne’s marketing.   As well as blackboard suggestions taste traditional planches of charcuterie, the rosette, the sabodet, and the gnarled saucisson held together with…
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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend It.com, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !