Chef Hélène Darroze’s Perfect Day of Dining in Paris

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Chef Hélène Darroze’s Perfect Day of Dining in Paris
Chef Hélène Darroze needs no introduction for French foodies: A juror on French Top Chef for nearly a decade, Darroze boasts six Michelin stars across three of her five restaurants in Paris and London, and was admitted into the French Legion of Honor in 2012. She even served as the inspiration for Colette in Disney’s Ratatouille – albeit one look at the smiling, flaxen-haired chef makes it clear she was emulated far more for her culinary talent than for any short-temperedness.   While Darroze’s CV is certainly impressive, these days, the chef spends most of her time dining, not at luxe restaurants, but rather in her local 6th arrondissement, accompanied by her two daughters, who, she says, are major Caesar salad fans. Their favorite is the one from Georgette, which overlooks a pretty square on the rue d’Assas. “We go mostly in summer,” says Darroze. “They don’t have it in the winter. But we go in the winter, too!”  Hélène Darroze at Joia. Photo: Nicolas-Buisson Darroze’s ideal day of dining in Paris starts, of course, with breakfast – specifically the viennoiseries from Bread & Roses, which she sends her girls out to fetch.  “They’re all good,” she says of the breakfast pastries. “But I’ve got a little bit of a weakness for the pain aux raisins.”  She also loves the baguette at this boulangerie, which she pairs with jams from Christine Ferber and a cup of her favorite genmaicha tea, which she gets from Japanese tea house Jugetsudo – the cornerstone, she says, of family breakfasts at home.  Pain aux raisins. Photo credit: stu_spivack / Flickr If she’s looking for something a bit lighter, she heads, instead, to Judy, a gluten-free, self-described “qualitarian” café that Darroze characterizes as being “a bit more of its time, a bit more vegetal.” The juices, she says, are excellent. “I go mainly for those. And mainly when I’m doing a bit of a detox.”.  Come lunchtime, she and her daughters love to head out for a Saturday lunch at one of their favorite neighborhood staples. “We’ve got a bunch of spots,” she says, evoking among them Yen for soba noodles, Ha Noi 1988 for Vietnamese, or Takuto, a no-reservations sushi spot steps from Saint-Germain-des-Près.  While Darroze’s choice of cantine these days typically leans Asian-inspired, this was not always the case. When she first began splitting her time between Paris and London 15 years ago, she was pleasantly overwhelmed by choice in top-quality international offerings in the British capital – and disappointed, by comparison, by what she found in Paris.  “I feel like by comparison, we were really lagging behind,” she muses. “I feel like now we’re starting to catch up, and I really like that.” 
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Lead photo credit : Hélène Darroze. Photo: Isaac Ichou

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Emily Monaco is an American journalist based in Paris. Her work has appeared in the BBC, Saveur, Atlas Obscura, and more. She is the host of the podcast "Navigating the French" and pens a weekly newsletter, Emily in France, with tips for dining (and cheese-eating) in Paris and beyond.