The Ritz Hotel Paris opened in 1898 by Swiss hotelier César Ritz in collaboration with legendary chef Auguste Escoffier. It was the first European hotel to provide en suite bathrooms, telephones and electricity in each room.
Fast forward to 1979 when The Ritz was acquired by Egyptian business magnate Mohammed al-Fayed (also owner of Harrods, London) and then to 1988 when The Ritz-Escoffier Cooking School launched, paying homage to Escoffier and passing on the values he cherished because, as Escoffier maintained, “good cuisine is the basis of true happiness.”
Le Tout-Paris celebrated the March 2016 reopening of the iconic hotel which had been closed for a €200 million facelift since August 2012. Mr al-Fayed commissioned architect Thierry Despont for the project, which includes 159 sumptuous rooms and suites. And, not only the newly transformed state-of-the-art cookery school, with the addition of a third custom-built kitchen, but also a bucolic landscaped garden restaurant, gallery of boutiques, basement ballroom, Ritz Club, health club, the world’s first Chanel spa and– very James Bond– the newly excavated private tunnel for VIP guests.
“A pioneer of modern cuisine, Auguste Escoffier was the first Executive Chef at the Ritz Paris and since 1988 the École Ritz Escoffier, created in his honor at the request of Mr al-Fayed, has been faithfully teaching the values Escoffier cherished,” explains the school’s director, Fabienne Lefebvre. “The beautiful blue and white themed third kitchen overlooks the main Michelin 2-star L’Espadon restaurant kitchen providing a completely interactive experience into the world of Executive Chef Nicolas Sale and his team,” adds Ms Lefebvre.
“In the 120 years of The Ritz there have been only 9 chefs – I am the 10th,” says Nicolas Sale, heading the brand new state-of-the-art kitchens as Executive chef.
With Michelin stars earned at Kilimandjaro and Kintessence restaurants in Courchevel in the French alps, the Paris-born chef also honed his skills in the prestigious kitchens of Alain Senderens and Pierre Gagnaire, at Monte Cristo, L’Hotel du Castellet and Les Pêcheurs, Cap d’Antibes. “My team and I are working on the theme pioneered by August Escoffier, “keep it simple”, he says. Sale directs a brigade of 100 and explains the new direction that the “Universe L’Espadon” takes.
“A total transformation, we’ve added a retractable roof and bucolic garden to the restaurant”. There’s no change of name. “We’ve kept L’Espadon in homage to Charles Ritz, who named it in 1956, but the concept is different at lunch and dinner. We have to take into account that, in 2016, people want to eat lunch in a little more than an hour, and we’ll open from Monday to Friday with the addition of a sumptuous Brunch du Ritz on Saturday and Sunday. However at night, time is not of the essence and the service (7/7) will be poetic, narrative and an exciting journey for the 45 guests”.
In November, chef Sale welcomes his friend and colleague Davide Bisetto (formerly at Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris & Casteldelmar, Corsica) into his new kitchens for a one-week, four-handed Franco/Italian cook-in when they’ll showcase dishes from Bisetto’s ** Michelin Le Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice, where the kitchens overlook the Île de la Guidecca. “It will be a belcanto gastronomique”, says an excited Sale. “We will cook dishes served in the Jardins de L’Espadon.” On the menu: Bigoli (thick pasta), oursin (sea urchins), palourdes (clams) and boutargue (luxury fish roe); Risotto acidulée, cauliflower, caramelized chapon (rascasse) piled with caviar and Cipriani signature Foie de Veau. (From 95-125€ + wine)
And, it doesn’t stop there, the Italian job continues in the Ritz Bar at lunch with Tortellini au jarret de veau, balsamique and cacao; Cipriani’s classic carpaccio; Sea bass cooked in a salt crust, spicy ponzu sauce and Tiramisu dessert as in Treviso (Bisetto’s home town). Lunch about 30€. At night, you’ll find snacks (cichetti from about 20€ a plate) and Venetian style tapas like Cromesquis. Or for the sweet-toothed: Tirami-Chou and Bellini lollypops. Match with Lucky Spritz cocktails (24€) – or Buona Notte (24€) – created for George Clooney – what else?
Diary Date: Sunday, 20th November: The fabulous Ritz Brunch adopts Italian dolce vita attitude Cipriani style for a delicious “dimanche a Paris”. (125€ + wine)
Des Jardins de Casanova au Jardins de L’Espadon: 14-20th November, 2016. Reservations: 01 43 16 33 74 or [email protected]. 15, place Vendôme, 1st arrondissement.