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Lucien Vanel


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#1 mikeycook

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 10:41 PM

Paula, in the introduction to this Spotlight, you refer to Lucien Vanel, of all the chefs in SW France you met, as having the kitchen sensibility closest to your own. You allude to certain things you admire in the posts and the book, such as his elevation of his mother's home cooking and his thriftiness in using what was available from the previous day to create dishes. Can you perhaps explain in a little more detail what it is specifically about Vanel's kitchen sensibility that strikes a cord with you, as well as the similarities you may have found in your own cooking?
"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."
~ Fernand Point

#2 Wolfert

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 10:39 AM

Paula, in the introduction to this Spotlight, you refer to Lucien Vanel, of all the chefs in SW France you met, as having the kitchen sensibility closest to your own.  You allude to certain things you admire in the posts and the book, such as his elevation of his mother's home cooking and his thriftiness in using what was available from the previous day to create dishes.  Can you perhaps explain in a little more detail what it is specifically about Vanel's kitchen sensibility that strikes a cord with you, as well as the similarities you may have found in your own cooking?

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Hello John,

Despite his boyish smile, Vanel was not one of the "Young Turks" of French cuisine that the journalists were agog about. He was more of a " Lone Ranger" type working in the tradition of regional southwestern French cooking. Yet he was as innovative and imaginative as the best of them. To understand my appreciation of Vanel you need to know the cuisine of Quercy, which epitomizes the art of giving great taste to simple ingredients: mushrooms, walnuts, chestnuts, pork, and duck and geese raised for foie gras.

When Vanel was seventeen his mother made him chef at the family inn in Lacapelle Marival in the Lot district. Soon word of the youngster's cooking began to spread; people spoke of extraordinary lightness and flavor. Lucien Vanel's snails with walnuts, his tourtiere of chicken with salsify, and stuffed goose neck on a bed of pureed sorrel were judged exemplary in a region where first rate cuisine is the rule.

Then he went to Paris, ordered sweetbreads at the famous restaurant Denis, and...revelation! "I found they were four times better than my own," he told me. This was when he discovered cooking that went beyond his mother's one star establishment. He subsequently traveled and learned to cook even more lightly by inventing new ways of doing things while still remaining true to his traditions, and untouched by the fads of the day. He returned to his regional restaurant but people were not impressed. They wanted the older food. So he moved to Toulouse and garnered his own two stars doing food he understood but the people around him didn't. I greatly admired his courage and his talent.

By the way, John, I want to thank you so much for helping me nail the duck ham recipe. I don't think there is a better one in print and I owe you a great deal for helping me develop a revised one for the moulard.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#3 mikeycook

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 11:41 AM

Paula, in the introduction to this Spotlight, you refer to Lucien Vanel, of all the chefs in SW France you met, as having the kitchen sensibility closest to your own.  You allude to certain things you admire in the posts and the book, such as his elevation of his mother's home cooking and his thriftiness in using what was available from the previous day to create dishes.  Can you perhaps explain in a little more detail what it is specifically about Vanel's kitchen sensibility that strikes a cord with you, as well as the similarities you may have found in your own cooking?

View Post


Hello John,

Despite his boyish smile, Vanel was not one of the "Young Turks" of French cuisine that the journalists were agog about. He was more of a " Lone Ranger" type working in the tradition of regional southwestern French cooking. Yet he was as innovative and imaginative as the best of them. To understand my appreciation of Vanel you need to know the cuisine of Quercy, which epitomizes the art of giving great taste to simple ingredients: mushrooms, walnuts, chestnuts, pork, and duck and geese raised for foie gras.

When Vanel was seventeen his mother made him chef at the family inn in Lacapelle Marival in the Lot district. Soon word of the youngster's cooking began to spread; people spoke of extraordinary lightness and flavor. Lucien Vanel's snails with walnuts, his tourtiere of chicken with salsify, and stuffed goose neck on a bed of pureed sorrel were judged exemplary in a region where first rate cuisine is the rule.

Then he went to Paris, ordered sweetbreads at the famous restaurant Denis, and...revelation! "I found they were four times better than my own," he told me. This was when he discovered cooking that went beyond his mother's one star establishment. He subsequently traveled and learned to cook even more lightly by inventing new ways of doing things while still remaining true to his traditions, and untouched by the fads of the day. He returned to his regional restaurant but people were not impressed. They wanted the older food. So he moved to Toulouse and garnered his own two stars doing food he understood but the people around him didn't. I greatly admired his courage and his talent.

By the way, John, I want to thank you so much for helping me nail the duck ham recipe. I don't think there is a better one in print and I owe you a great deal for helping me develop a revised one for the moulard.

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Thank you for your kind comments. It was a real pleasure (and my first experience doing anything like it.) I appreciate the opportunity. If you would like any help formatting the recipes that didn't make the second edition for your web site, let me know.

Edited by mikeycook, 17 November 2005 - 11:43 AM.

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."
~ Fernand Point