Hugo Desnoyer is amongst some of the best butchers in Paris if not in France. He's worked in butcheries since his teenage years when after failing at finding out what he wanted to do with his life, his dad sent him to a butcher shop to work, and it is where the revelation happened. He's known for being the French President's butcher under the Chirac's years, less today under the Sarkozy government as the new President doesn't seem to be a "bon vivant" like his predecessor. Amongst his clients are also some innovative restaurants like l'Arpege (Alain Passard), l'Atelier (Joel Robuchon, Le Chateaubriand (Inaki Aizpitarte). Hugo selects his ranchers carefully, wanting the animals to be grass fed, free range and raised in positive conditions. Lastly, his matures his beef for 4 weeks; a process essential to the tenderness of the meat.
Christophe Vasseur is a passionate baker, because it was his childhood dream that he decided to pursue at age 30 after a career in fashion business. Elected best baker in Paris in 2008 by Gault et Millau, and provider of bread for some great clients such as Alain Ducasse, it looks like love for one's work pays off. His best seller is "pain des amis" or "friends' bread", a very large loaf split in large strips cooked at very high temperature first then lower heat on in a stone oven. We loved talking to him at the wooden table set in front of his bakery to devoure his bread and simple sweets.
Pierre Oteiza is not accessible at first, like any Basque man you would expect. Quiet, stern and almost timid, he doesn't give away his secrets so easily. But if you take the TIME, his favorite ingredient and answer to most of our questions, there might be a chance you will become friends, and share good stories around a fresh beer and his decadent jambon and charcuterie. He reintroduced the basque pig 20 years ago in his region, and increased the number of animals from 20 to 5000. He has one of the me most sophisticated dryer facility in France, where him and a coop of other artisans make and store their delicatessen; up to 45,000 jambons are hanging there. If you have a question about one of his products or would like to verify it's provenance, just give him the number on the label and he will tell you exactly which pig was used for the meat.
The best influence from both sides of the Atlantic, based on local and fresh ingredients, that’s what Gregory Marchand will feed you at Frenchie. “Less is more” is the motto, even though we cannot help to be marveled by the beautiful composition of each plate, punctuated with colorful and unique ingredients. We arrived before the restaurant opened, and found his expecting wife and son hanging out with some friends at the outdoors bistro tables, a perfect welcome committee. A fixed menu that changes with the seasons, you will not regret to be told what to eat. Each plate was just a little slice of heaven for our palate. From the foie gras with drunken cherries, to the smoked mackerel with spring asparagus, just talking about it makes us want to hop on a flight to Paris for dinner!
YOUNG & HUNGRY: One word that describes you.
GREGORY MARCHAND: Ha, it’s hard to describe oneself! Happy!
Y&H:Why is your restaurant called Frenchie?
G.M: They always called me "frenchie" in the kitchens, people never really knew my name. I liked it. And it really well describes what I do, I am French with an Anglo-Saxon influence.
Fois gras au torchon, cerise a l'eau de vie
Y&H: Do you have a notebook in which you write your ideas?
G.M: Yes, since the very beginning when I started my project. I always had little notebooks wherever I went. I’m the kind of person who does a lot of to-do lists, who needs to write down things to remember them, to get organized. It’s a whole series of lists, lists, more lists, clipboards, notebooks; I’m always a pen in hand. Very important!
Y&H: Do you get suddenly woken up at night by new ideas?
G.M: It happens, but more during certain times. When I was about to open Frenchie, it was occupying 100% of my thoughts! After that I tried to take a bit of distance, even though it’s only been two years.
Maquereau fume, asperge, citron
Y&H:Your three key ingredients.
G.M: Acidity is important, so lemon and vinegars. Olive oil. It’s hard to choose! For this spring season the ingredient is the asparagus, but there’s also morel mushrooms. There’s so many! It all depends on the season.
Gnuddi, girolles, petits pois, epinards sauvages
Y&H:If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
G.M: I don’t know! I actually have no idea where I would be, I would probably be bored to death. I started when I was sixteen, so it is hard for me to see myself doing anything else. Like many others as a kid I wanted to be a veterinarian. I never really wanted to be a chef, it was kind of a safety net, a way to survive. At age 16 in France you have to choose your school orientation, so I chose gastronomy because I somehow liked cooking.
Maigre de ligne, minestrone de printemps
Y&H:Who are the people who inspired you?
G.M: The first chefs I worked with in London like David Nichols from the Mandarin Oriental. Then I went to the Savoy with Simon Scott, who’s now in the South of France. All the people I worked with guided me, but it took me some time to realize what I was doing, at first it was only a way to pay for rent.
Canard, betterave, navet
Y&H:Is cooking for you a political act in the current state of the world?
G.M: Yes, I think that you need to pay attention to what you buy, where you buy and when you buy it. You can already make a difference by buying while respecting the seasons, as well as locally when you can. I have some great foragers that will look for ingredients from the region. At first it was hard for me to find things in and around Paris, because I had lived abroad for ten years; it takes time to find the right people. Now I have a good little network that allows me to have more ethical ingredients in my plate.
Pannacotta a la grappa, framboises, amandes fraiches
Y&H: What are your strongest memories of your experience abroad?
G.M: There are several, but mostly the discovery of a gastronomy through its culture. In London I loved working for Jamie Oliver, making “Italian-Brit” food, it really liberated me to work there, to forget all the rigid rules that are being taught to you in cooking school. In the United States I worked for the Gramercy Tavern in New York City, where they were all about farm-to-table. It is really interesting to work in kitchens that get their inspiration from all around the world, in cosmopolitan cities like London and New York, it opens up your horizons.
Y&H:Three adjectives for your food.
G.M: Less-Is-More. It’s one adjective no?!
Y&H:The ingredient of the day.
G.M: The strawberries from the Ile de France region! Good produce makes me so happy.
G.M: Across the street, Frenchie Wine Bar, opening on June 21st. Cold food, tapas style. A friend that was the sous-chef at Jamie’s will be doing the food there.
Meet Inaki, poet of the palate and the plate. A fixed menu that changes every day with the rhythm of seasons and inspiration, his plates are an unforgettable sensorial experience. Inaki was born and raised in the South West of France, in the Basque Country, a region that still inspires his cuisine. Former apprentice of the fresh and local produce obsessed Alain Passard, the young Aizpitarte makes high-end French gastronomy affordable and innovative. We still dream of his duck fat bouillon with licorice and tarragon, or his marrow served like a slice of butter with radishes “French style” sprinkled with seaweed.
YOUNG & HUNGRY: What did you eat for breakfast this morning? INAKI AIZPITARTE: Hmm, nothing. I didn’t feel well. But usually I have a hot chocolate with milk, and then I switch to coffee. I rarely eat in the morning, sometimes a shortbread cookie or “petit sable”.
Y&H: An ingredient that puts you in a good mood.
I.A: There are ten million ingredients that make me happy, especially when they’re incredibly fresh and of exceptional quality. The ingredient of the day: arroche, from the family of spinach.
ceviche, fleur de coriandre et framboise mozzarella fumee, courgette et aneth
Y&H: If you could only save one thing from your kitchen, what would it be?
I.A: My sous-chef!
Y&H: When did you know that you had made it, that it was going to be your life?
I.A: I was always attracted to the idea of cooking, but I had never done anything about it. I discovered professional kitchens while traveling, when I was in need to make some money. I was a dishwasher in a restaurant in Israel around twelve years ago, while I was hoping I would get a job as gardener somewhere else. I ended up being a kitchen helper instead. When I sent my first plate out, I knew it was going to be my life. It was a great Mediterranean restaurant, that mixed French and Italian and pretty much did “author gastronomy”. It immediately clicked for me, and I knew that the moment I would set a foot back in France, I would train to become a chef.
gougeres au fromage bouillon de canard avec olive et reglisse
Y&H: A controversial ingredient.
I.A: Tuna right now. But also all the ingredients that travel too much, that we overuse, that get shipped for random reasons not in season. The tuna from Saint-Jean-de-Luz is subjected to quotas, but I can’t help but eat some, within the quotas, of course! It’s a childhood taste.
radis avec moelle et algues
Y&H: What is your relationship to farmers and small producers?
I.A: It is the core of our work. We pay great attention to it. I love our relationships with the produce sellers, the people who find the best fish for us, the butchers, the ones who make olive oil, the others who hunt down spices, etc. We meet a lot of interesting people.
Y&H: Do you shop yourself for the restaurant or do you have buyers that help you find the perfect ingredients?
I.A: There are several networks in between restaurants, which allow us to obtain beautiful ingredients. But then there are little things that we hunt down ourselves here and there.
Y&H: What is your first memory of food?
I.A: It was a custom in my family to ask for your favorite dishes on your birthday, and for me it was “ink chipirons” or small squid with ink, a very typical dish from my region, the Basque Country.
volaille jaune des Landes, tandoori, asperges, amandes, oignons pickles
Y&H: Why Paris?
I.A: When I came back from Tel Aviv, I decided to learn the craft in Paris, because it was where so many things were happening. It is a great platform for great products and ingredients. And then, I mean, it’s Paris! Old Parisian bistros always fascinated me, and I was lucky enough to get one for my restaurant.
legumes, encre, lard de Colonnata
Y&H: Three words that can describe what you do.
I.A: Freshness. Acidity. Produce.
Y&H: What’s the next step?
I.A: We just opened another restaurant next door, Le Dauphin. The next step is probably the remodeling of my kitchen, it needs to be organized differently.
Y&H: Why fixed menu / fixed price?
I.A: I do a tasting menu because I think that food should be tasted in smaller portions. The idea is to tell a story. I also have a tiny kitchen!
Y&H: Where does your inspiration come from?
I.A: With the seasons, travel, and inspirations from other chefs. I don’t have a notebook, sometimes I might write down a couple of things on my phone. It kind of just happens serendipitously, I am constantly inhabited by what I do.