Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Not long ago, the greatest lifetime achievement of Jean-Francois Piège was to be the unsung main author of Alain Ducasse’s „Grand livre de la cuisine“. The book, a real doorstop, is certainly one of the most important guides leading through the art of highly refined French cooking – to get this important work done must have been hell for all the chefs involved, and although it was published as Ducasse’s bible, Piège deserves most of the credit for the recipe listings, the descriptions, the cooking and the writing.
As a chef, his success was somewhat mixed. The path of his career is classic: he started at a young age, made his tour de France hitting Courchevel, then the Château d’Eza , getting his first chance at the premier league at Les Ambassadeurs, the splendid restaurant of Hotel Crillon on Place de la Concorde. Yes, he earned two Michelin-stars there – but you know what? The food served was kind of bland, overly bourgeois, it was ceremonial, it lacked genius and sometimes even taste.
Piège joined the Ducasse group, worked in Monaco, in Paris at Plaza Athénée – and in 2009, finally, he became an entrepreneur of his own, joining forces with the Parisian restaurant tsar Thierry Coste – and here they were, at the new Brasserie and hotel „Thoumieux“ in Rue St. Dominique. At the time, Piège multiplied his TV appearances, sitting on jurys of „Top chef“ and other junk emissions – and by doing so, he again stirred doubts about his quality and ambitions as a chef.
But now something miraculous has happened: On the first floor of „Thoumieux“, Jean-Francois Piège runs a tiny eating room decorated by interior designer India Mahdavi and dubbed after himself, the gastronomic restaurant „Jean-Francois Piège“. And the miracle is: the food there is breathtakingly good, it is fantastic, brilliant, deeply satisfying – and it marks Piège’s ascension into the heaven of the greatest French chefs of our time. Piege was, by the way, immediately crowned with two Michelin stars and got elected “chef of the year 2011” by his peers.
You choose from a naked list of fine ingredients – and they’ll become the courses of your menu. Eating starts with rich and numerous appetizers displaying a happy spirit of generosity. But when meat and fish and vegetables or whatever you’ve chosen start rolling in, you won’t believe your eyes and your palate.
The dishes are strikingly beautiful – and their taste matches this beauty. I would go so far to say that right now, you’d hardly find a restaurant in Paris where the chef demonstrates such mastery of seasoning and combining flavours. You’ll find Asian whiffs, have sensations of more traditional spices mixed with more exotic ones, you’ll sit there and ask yourself what exactly you are eating but everything makes perfect sense from a to z. It’s a rare experience.
To be honest, I had Piège on the list of chefs who would never really make it to the top. I was wrong. After years of training and practicing and working hard, he has made it. That’s great news and he should soon be awarded his third Michelin-star. As Paris lovers you already know the flipside to this kind of success story: from now on, it’ll be a mission impossible to get a table at „Jean-Francois Piège“. You better bring a celebrity to get a chance. Or become one yourself. They found a system though to keep the restaurants open even for mere mortals like you and me: call at nine in the morning and with a little luck, you’ll have a table exactly two weeks later.
Photos: © AFP, Eric Feferberg, © Stéphane de Bourgeois, © MAPJean-François Piège 79, Rue Saint-Dominique 75007 Paris Métro: La Tour Maubourg +33(0)1 47 05 79 79 Closed on Sunday and Monday and in August 1 ingrédient 70€ – 2 ingrédients 90 € – 3 ingrédients 115€