My Parisian Restaurant Map

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Michelin Starred High-School Chefs

While reading my usual 'Direct Matin' on the metro on the way to work this morning, I noticed a little article that caught my eye. 

"20 school chefs have spent the day today learning different recipes from Guy Martin."

 They mastered everything from chicken burgers with comte cheese to an apple concassee with a Carambar caramel reduction. (Carambars are the French equivalent of tootsie rolls....although I don't think you'd necessarily want to melt a tootsie roll-it would probably ignite instead.) Now where I come from, we don't use the word 'school' or 'chef' in the same sentence. It just doesn't make any sense. For me, the school cook, aka the lunchlady, was a woman who wore a hair net and served me chicken nuggets with a side of tater tots and a carton of chocolate milk. But in Paris, or Val-d'Oise specifically, high school cooks used to work for Michelin starred restaurants. 

This initiative is part of a campaign called 'Our Schools Have Taste', which aims to introduce more sophisticated yet regional and seasonal delicacies that children may not usually be accustomed to, like vegetable bruschetta or mushrooms from Mery. The schools chefs trained under Guy Martin this morning in his atelier in Miromesnil, and will then return to their schools to spice up the menus. 

But were the chefs nervous about working with the Guy Martin? Nope, one of them had already cooked for Joel Robuchon once. Of course. 

Now I don't know about you but I find this story entirely absurd! The idea that a chef who once personally served Robuchon would then go and work in a high school cafeteria in Val-d'Oise (in the middle of bumfuck nowhere from the Parisian perspective) is just absurd. Absolutely absurd. 

It really makes me want to start a tasting tour of cafeteria food, because apparently thats where all the good chefs go to die. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Les Cocottes de Christian Constant

Ok, so it's been a while. In the time that I've been absent though I do promise that I have been eating a lot of 'new material', all to come very soon.

On that note, as the always-faithful follower of Anthony Bourdain's footsteps, I've just come back from having lunch at Les Cocottes, one of the hidden gems that he dined at during his last visit to Paris. (Although not so hidden anymore, considering the size of the lunch crowd...)

Just google Les Cocottes and you will get a myriad of raving reviews, how the food is astonishing and the service impeccable, the ambiance superb and the wine heavenly. Even David Leibovitz calls it a 'fantastic restaurant concept.'

Me, I say 'meh.'

Yes, the food was good. But not that good. Everything comes in beautiful Staub cast iron pots, but the dish I ordered wasn't even cooked in its cocotte; fillet mignon and beans is not something that traditionally gets stewed, is it? Luckily, there were a couple of dishes, like vegetables stewed in the cocotte (mmmm how exciting) and a boeuf bourguinon (yawn), that do indeed generally tend to be cooked in a Staub or a Le Creuset.

For dessert, I had a waffle which I'd heard was excellent; and I do think it could have been, if only it weren't slightly burnt on the bottom...not burnt enough to be black, but just enough to leave a lingering bitter aftertaste. The cotes du rhone I used to wash away that bitterness however was quite satisfying, but then again, when has a cotes du rhone never been at least fairly good?

And to top it off, the waitress sucked at counting and ripped us off a couple euros. Again, just a couple, bit still, enough to notice and leave slightly annoyed.

I just feel like it's a little gimmicky, a little too flashy. Yes the presentation of the food is beautiful as is the decor, and the food is very good, but it doesn't feel Parisian. French bistros are all about the relaxed, "I don't give a shit if you like it or not", laissez-faire ambiance. It's a kind of understated grungy-ness that you fall in love with because the food is so mind blowing that you're not even looking at the decor or the walls or the waiters. The French are cool because they pretend not to care about what you think, even if they secretly do.
All in all, Mr. Constant, I'm slightly disappointed with your cocottes. I had such high expectations thanks to you, Mr. Bourdain, who for the first time seem to have led me astray. Tis a sad day indeed.