Discovering the Maestro of Vegetables
His Aprège restaurant never fails to be mentioned as a favourite by critics. Three Michelin stars with a vegetable-based menu is a great success. He removed red meat meat from his bill of fare more than 15 yeras ago, and now the vegetables from his own kitchen garden play the leading role in his menu.
Alain Passard is an enthusiast of vegetable food, and this can be noticed right away as one sees him touching and looking at each piece of produce, and entering into dialogue with them: “A mauve, a yellow, a marbly white, a celadon green, a pearly orange. These are colors that inspire me. I proceed by touches. The technical aspect comes after this.” And then, all remaining senses come-hearing, with crunchy textures; strong but delicate tastes, and smell: the sense that sets the “tempo” of each dish.
In 2001, the chef and his restaurant experienced a radical change, focusing on the vegetable world. The transit from meat to vegetables was for him a transfer of power: “A true joie de vivre”. He has maintained this culinary revolution ever since, climbing up to the top of world cuisine. His secret lies in the select produce that he grows in his own vegetable gardens. That same produce is served at his restaurant tables just a few hours after being picked, undergoing no refrigeration process whatsoever: truly from vegetable garden-to-table.
Passard is son of a musician and grandson of a sculptor; his mother was a fashion designer and his grandmother, a cook. His family exudes art and creativity. Clearly, he was destinated for a creative, hands-on occupation. His virtuoso mastery of oven flames is a legacy from his grandmother, Louise Passard, an expert in roasted dishes who taught him about the power and majesty of fire. Since he started as an apprentice at the age 14 with Breton chef Michel Kéréver, he has had an amazing evolution. At 26 he became the youngest ever Chef awarded two Michelin stars when he worked at Le Duc dÉnghien, in the Enghien Casino.
Four years later, he moved to Brussels and worked at the Carlton restaurant, where he won two stars again. This big achievement ultimately induced him to start a personal venture. In 1986, he was already 30 and took the plunge with Aprège, his own restaurant. In just one season, he got a Michelin star, getting his second one the following season. In 1996 he won-and has maintained ever since-his third Michelin star that placed him up in the Olympus of world-class gastronomy. Until then, Passard has been well known for his superb cooking using vegetables, fish and, particularly, different types of red meat. He was famous worldwide for the roasted meat dishes that came out of his ovens. In 2001, he decided to take an important turn in his life and his restaurant. Everything changes: greens, vegetables and fruits became the absolute protagonists in his kitchen. He did not become a strict vegetarian , as he still prepared fish and meat, but he relegated them to a very secondary role, only serving them based on customers´request. Lobster with herbs is still one of his most celebrated dishes.
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