Portrait of a Chef | Alain Passard

3402-ALAIN-PASSARD

This chef is passionate about the product and can handle vegetables like no-one else. He comes from a family of artists, with a grandmother who was a cook, a grandfather who was a sculptor, a musician father and a costume designer mother. Alain Passard has himself become a great artist in the kitchen.

Born in 1956, this Breton began his schooling at the age of 14 at the Hôtellerie du Lyon d’Or with the Michelin-starred chef Michel Kéréver. He then joined Gaston Boyer at La Chaumière in Reims. A few years later, he worked under Alain Senderens, a three-star chef at L’Archestrate in Paris. At 24, he was chef at the Duc d’Enghien, the restaurant attached to the casino at Enghien-les-Bains, where he earned two Michelin stars and became the youngest chef ever to receive such a recompense for his dishes ! In particular he created the carpaccio of Dublin Bay prawns with caviar or the chaud-froid of egg with chives. In 1984, he was running the kitchens at the Carlton in Brussels and once again won two stars for that establishment.
At 30, Alain Passard bought L’Archestrate from Alain Senderens and renamed his new restaurant L’Arpège, in reference to his love of music. He earned one star there in 1987. The second was awarded in 1988. He received a grade of 19/20 from Gault Millau in 1990. A third star came in 1996, ten years after the opening of L’Arpège. Alain Passard, who describes himself as a “broiler”, radically changed direction in 2001. He decided to no longer serve red meat in his restaurant, but he did, however, keep poultry and fish on the menu. He began to favour cooking based on vegetables and vegetable gardens, a daring wager that turned out to be visionary. To this end, he acquired three vegetable plots in three very different locations : one in the Sarthe (south-west of Paris), where carrots, asparagus and leeks grow happily in the sandy soil. He inaugurated a second one in the Eure (west of Paris) where the clay soil produces celeriac, swedes and potatoes. The third in the Manche (Normandy) has a soil that is rich in alluvia, excellent for growing herbs. Work in the vegetable gardens is done with the help of a horse so that the soil is not crushed and the plants grown there are organic in order to respect the vegetable garden’s entire ecosystem.
These vegetable gardens give L’Arpège total independence as they provide around 20 tons of fruit and vegetables per year.
Nowadays, Alain Passard is known around the world for his Arpège platter, a garden dish, freshly picked in the morning, respectful of the seasonal nature of the produce. There are two dishes which have never been taken off his menu : the Dublin Bay prawn carpaccio with raw cep mushrooms and stuffed tomatoes ! Another of his specialities is the Bouquet de Roses apple tart.
Alain Passard has written a number of books about cooking with vegetables and also has a regular column in the Guest section of lepoint.fr: “Le bonheur est dans le jardin” (Happiness is in the garden), with many accompanying videos.

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