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robert brown

Guy Savoy

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Gastronomic history may have been made last week with the awarding of a third Guide Michelin star to Parisian chef-restaurateur Guy Savoy. It is possible that he is the first chef of Jewish heritage to have acquired the ultimate prize in "haute gastronomy". I know of no other chef, but that does not mean there have not been any over the decades. Some of you out there may not buy into the fact that Savoy is indeed Jewish. However, I have put my faith (which is also Jewish) in one of the older Parisian "fessers", Monsieur Alain Weill, formerly one of the restaurant critics for "L'Evenement du Jeudi", who told me in the late 1970s that French Jews often have as last names the names of places (towns, cities, regions,etc.) in France, and that Guy Savoy was such an example. I have passed on this information to Jewhoo.com (whose existence Steve Plotnicki made known to me). And Steve and Cabrales, coincidently, are dining at Guy Savoy this weekend. Perhaps if Steve has enough to drink, he can pop the question along with the cork from his Champagne bottle.

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Magnolia, you mean two in one year? What do you think this is, women's Olympic figure skating? (Jewhoo says that Irene Slutskaya is Jewish). I suspect, however, that given his Alsatian location, Jean-Georges Klein has one of those names that is both German and Jewish, with the likelihood that it is indicative of the former to the exclusion of the latter. However, one never knows. Let's see what I can find out. Good observation, though.

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You're probably right. I have a French friend who happens to be a chef, who is from Alsace-environs as well. He has a surname that conventional "New York wisdom" would say is Jewish - let's call him Pierre-Michel Schwartz for the sake of example. Anyway, when he moved to NY - the first time he'd been out of France - he was really puzzled when so many people assumed he was Jewish. In fact he'd never met a Jew before.

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Magnolia, if looks are deceiving, then M. Klein is Jewish; but to look at his picture on the Relais & Chateaux site, he looks like a young, nice-looking, something-other-than-Jewish lad. And how about his wife?

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Can you discern anything in Savoy's food that might be traced to any ethnicity other than French. I'm waiting to hear cabrales' report on the Japanese chef, Hiroyuki Hiramatsu's new restaurant. I suppose Japanese cuisine has had a great effect on contemporary cuisine in France, but I wonder if there's a strong sense of Hiramatsu's ethnicity in the food. The menu certainly reads like a contemporary French menu. I don't think Hiramatsu's the first Japanese chef to earn a star in France. I believe there was a Japanese chef at a starred inn in Brittany quite some time ago. I guess I'm not all that interested in a chef's ethnicity unless I can sense it in the food, although a foreign chef earning a star in France is always news.

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Bux, you're right about a Japanese chef in Brittany. I can see I'll be thinking of nothing else and laying awake all night trying to think of where. Was it in Belon at a hotel-restaurant circa 1980? Not Locquenole, is it? I thnk, though,that that is a French owner-chef situation.

I think that after having so many of our guys and girls writing about food, it is nice that finally someone gets universal acclaim for preparing it.

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As I recall the place in Brittany was a Relais & Chateaux inn, the owners were French and the chef, a hired hand, was Japanese. It may not have been a R&C property. It was definitely not Locguéunolé. I think it was in Moëlan-sur-Mer, which I believe is not far from Belon.

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Now that you mention it, you are right. I remember a big pond on the property and a good meal as well. Goood work, Bux.

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We never made it to that part of France in those years. the restaurant may even have existed during a period in which we didn't travel, but it always sounded interesting. I've checked last year's Michelin and suspect it's one of the two places currently listed for Moëlan-sur-Mer, but neither rings a bell for me.

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It's Les Moulins du Duc. The 2001 Gault-Millau calls it a new listing, but says there is a new chef who apparently is reviving the place after "the depart of Torigai who made its glory". I guess that Torigai was the Japanese chef and that the establishment lay dormant for some period. I wonder what happened to the Japanese chef. Anyway, it was a charming situation 20 years ago and probably still is now.

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Can you discern anything in Savoy's food that might be traced to any ethnicity other than French. I'm waiting to hear cabrales' report on the Japanese chef, Hiroyuki Hiramatsu's new restaurant. I suppose Japanese cuisine has had a great effect on contemporary cuisine in France, but I wonder if there's a strong sense of Hiramatsu's ethnicity in the food.

Bux -- From two prior visits (one from quite a few years ago), I did not discern material aspects of Guy Savoy's cooking that indicated he is other than French.  (Note Savoy was born in Bourgoin-Jallieu.)  

As for Hiramatsu, you won't have to wait too long. :wink: I hope his cooking does not have significant Japanese influences. I have not been particularly impressed with Tetsuya's cooking (including the restaurant he supervises in London -- Mju); interesting (incl. his use of his shellfish oil and his indications of the intended temperature of each plate on the menu), but, for me, bearing too noticeable Japanese elements.

As for whether there are ethnic influences on a chef's cuisine, what do members think about European chefs that prepare French food outside of France?

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They're mercenaries, but I'm referring primarily to the French chefs who leave France and cook "French" food wherever they think they can make a buck.

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Magnolia, if looks are deceiving, then M. Klein is Jewish; but to look at his picture on the Relais & Chateaux site, he looks like a young, nice-looking, something-other-than-Jewish lad. And how about his wife?

I see your point. But put a few years a few pounds and a sparkly track suit on his wife, and she could be from the 'Bubbeh Belt' of Florida...

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The feature article in today's NY Times Dining section is entitled The New Paris, Where Chefs Come Out to Play. I'm not ecstatic about the article, but it's interesting reading and mabe a topic worthy of a new thread. Among other restaurants, Hiramatsu is mentioned, and quite favorably I might add. There seems to be no overt sense of Asia in the food or service, although I wonder if a contemporary French chef would offer poached oysters and seared foie gras with hollandiase (or Bearnaise--the caption on the photograph is not in synch with the text) on the same plate. Then again you've seen the menu on Hiramatsu's web page. We're all ears, or is it eyes, for the new thread on Hiramatsu here.

Your question about French cuisine prepared by chefs from other countries is interesting. Does it any longer exist? French cuisine has long existed on different planes. Haute cuisine was always a separate world even if distinctly French. I don't see all that much French non-haute cuisine outside of France any more. There's little interest in ethnic French cuisine. I'm thinking of coq au vin, frogs legs provencal, etc. You are not likely to find many places serving that kind of food in NY. If you do, they're owned by Frenchmen, although I should really think more carefully before I commit to such a statement. At the haute cuisine level, French food is no longer French. True haute cuisine is still dominated by the French, but outside of a few regional provisions, you won't find so much difference between a chef in Paris and Keller in Napa Valley or Santamaria in Catalunya. That is of course in my humble opinion and spoken without much thought of how I would defend such a statement if challenged.

(Just checking to see that the back door is open behind me and post.)

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The feature article in today's NY Times Dining section

Bux -- Thanks for the article link.  I am going to order the chestnut ice cream, with lavender, etc., sauce,  pictured in the article.  Also, I will have Berthillon's candied chestnut flavored ice cream before the meal. The article has a minor inaccuracy -- the caviar mentioned in L'Astrance's salmon dish is misdescribed.  It is smoked herrings' eggs (the item does look like caviar on the brioche).

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As for Hiramatsu, you won't have to wait too long. :wink: I hope his cooking does not have significant Japanese influences. I have not been particularly impressed with Tetsuya's cooking (including the restaurant he supervises in London -- Mju); interesting (incl. his use of his shellfish oil and his indications of the intended temperature of each plate on the menu), but, for me, bearing too noticeable Japanese elements.

Cabrales, I'm very interested in hearing more about your experience at Mju - I have been a few times and I love the place.

I am by no means an expert, but I don't think the food is particularly Japanese - at least not like any Japanese I have ever had. Perhaps the presentation is like a Japanese scroll...thin brush strokes, each element very carefully positioned, monochrome background...But I found the combinations & flavours to have more in common with those of Arpège, l'Astrance &tc. or Papillon in NYC... call it 'fusion' (gag) for lack of a better term...

But whatever it is, it's surely different from anything anyone in the UK has ever encountered (except perhaps those who have eaten at The Fat Duck, which I have not), hence the careful explication of the menu by the servers, and also the indication of what is served raw, warm, cold...The unexpected and sometimes surprising, if offered without any context or comment, would surely strike the first-timer as odd.  

The wine list is wonderful, well priced and well-matched to this weird food. Admittedly it's not to everyone's taste, and also I haven't been to Sydney so I don't have anything to compare to Mju...

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I think it's safe to assume that much of what appears in the Dining section has inaccuracies. This is dog bites man sort of news. Besides who knows, Barbot may have been out of herring roe on that day.

Candied chestnut flavored ice cream before the meal, That's a sweeter aperatif than even most French would take.

:wink:

One of the things you have to love about Berthillion is that they take a long vacation in the middle of the summer. I suppose that's just one of the things Simon hates about Paris.

Of course there are differences between the French Laundry and El Raco de Can Fabes and Daniel and Martin Berastaegui, and each and every haute cuisine restaurant in France, but as you acknowledge, the differences between the individual restaurants may be as great within France as outside. That one, with some ease, could make a list of core haute cuisine French restaurants that were in fact more similar to each other than to any restaurant outside the hexagon is not of much validity in this as I suspect it would be a list of the restaurants that interested you the least. I think my point is that if Keller or Santamaria could displace their restaurants and staff to Paris under cover, they would fit in the current mix. I won't argue that there is still a strength and depth in France that is hard to achieve elsewhere, but it's not in style any more. Economics may play a large role in this. I don't think enough people will sit for Veyrat's prices in New York, let alone Aspen or Park City.

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magnolia -- Maybe I should provide a clarification on Tetsuya.  The food at Mju I've had was quite good (and does allow the taste of the natural ingredients to be articulated), but I do not generally like Japanese-dominant food the same way I like French (or French-dominant) food.  This is going to get back to Michelin stars-type arguments again, and to Bux's argument (with which I would not, generally, agree) that, at the haute cuisine level, French food is no longer French.   In other words, when I indicated I was not particularly impressed with Tetsuya, the reason articulated was that the Japanese elements in his cuisine were too prominent.  That is to be taken in the context of my assessment that French food is intrinsically better, for me, than Japanese food.  (Yes, I was very tempted to post in Michelin stars.)

I should clarify that I do not dislike Mju.  I was not particularly pleased by the restaurant relative to what my expectations where.  My expectations were very high because Tetsuya was on hand on one of the nights I visited, and Tetsuya is (at least arguably) the best chef in Australia and is well-regarded internationally.  I may well eat at Mju again; it's just not very high on my list of places to visit.  Similarly, in recent posts on Ferme de Mon Pere, I have indicated I was not particularly impressed -- that does not mean I disliked the restaurant, just that it fell short of what I had expected.  In "Restaurant Reservations" under "General", I note that there are few restaurants I find compelling, so perhaps negative or quasi-negative comments I make about a restaurant should be taken in that context.  (Also, if I truly disliked a restaurant or dish, I would probably not be subtle about it :wink: )

Getting back to Tetsuya's flavor combinations -- the ones I've tasted -- sometimes, for example, when there is sauce accompanying a principal meat or seafood item, the sauce is somehow more distinct than it should be in many French dishes.  It might be shellfish oil drizzled onto a moist, well-prepared piece of langoustines meat.  The taste is more "Japanese" in general orientation than French.  While L'Astrance might utilize non-French ingredients, I get the sense that the sauces, emulsions and composition of the dishes are somehow more "French". While the flavor combinations might be deliciously surprising, the overall dish has a certain classicism underlying the innovation.  Whether it originates from technique or not, as has been debated in other threads, I do not know.  (On Ferme de Mon Pere, I'm not sure I could say its cuisine was so "French" in nature).

Bux -- On inaccuracies in articles, if one is a food reporter, one should take extra caution to ensure one is accurately reporting about what is taking in.  As noted in the article, each dish is served with detailed descriptions (including, in my experience, in the case of the smoked herrings' eggs, "œufs de harengs fumés").  A food writer for the NYT covering France should (1) be fully versed in French and understand what that means, (2) otherwise try to ask, or (3) have a sufficiently discerning palate to be able to tell the difference between smoked herrings' eggs and caviar (perhaps (3) is the fundamental point).  Perhaps, on that given day, caviar was indeed substituted for herrings' eggs, but I rather suspect there's no general shortage of herrings' eggs  :wink:

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I will only make enemies and offend people if you get me started on the NY Times' food reporting. It's not all irresponsible.

No, it's not likley l'Astrance would have run out of herring roe or that they would have substituted Iranian caviar, but I might have a hard time proving that in court so I leave open the possibility for you to decide.  :wink:

Your standard of reporting in the NY Times is based on an abstraction. My expectation of what I will read in the times is based on my past experience. A wise and older lawyer, who became a good friend, gave me some good business and legal advice many years ago. Among the things I learned to understand is that the first time you suffer damage through someone's negligence, it's their fault. After that you assume some of the burden for trusting them.  

I need only point out, as I did, that the text says hollandaise where the caption notes bearnaise, but I have no reason to believe the photo was not taken on a day when the chef changed his mind about the sauce. :wink:

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Below is a somewhat amusing excerpt from a Wine Spectator article on Guy Savoy's promotion:

"It was 9:50 a.m. on Feb. 12 when Derek Brown, the new English editor in chief of Michelin's Le Guide Rouge for France, called the chef at his self-named restaurant. As Brown introduced himself, Savoy cut him short. ** "I know who you are,"** the chef said. . . ."

http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Daily/Ne...45,1599,00.html

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On the question about Japanese influences chez Hiramatsu:Last month, before going to Hiramatsu for lunch, my son and I decided to have dinner at Nobu -- we were thinking it would be fun to have back-to-back (or belly-to-belly) fusion-ish meals.  When I got to Hiramatsu the following day and the first thing I saw was the gleaming silver and wood cheese cart, all thoughts of fusion flew from my head.  I don't think anyone would call Mr. Hiramatsu's cuisine a fusion of French and Japanese.  Perhaps someone could detect a Japanese sensibility.  But this kind of conjecture seems so beside the point after the first spoonful.  We were three for lunch and, to a person, we spent most of the three hours we were there bordering on giddy.  The food is extremely elegant but there is, as Regina said in her Times piece, a playfullness.  The combinations of ingredients are wildly inventive without being in any way bizarre and the giddy delight comes from these surprising combinations that are not easily surmised.  In addition, the room is beautiful and very comfortable and the service is warm and extremely attentive, just as you would expect it to be in a place with 18 seats and 14 staff members.  (Actually, lunch is limited to 10 covers because the full staff is not available in the afternoon.)  Finally, the wine list is extraordinary. All through lunch we had the feeling that we were getting an early taste of what would be a grand success.  It was the same feeling I had when I first ate at l'Astrance, a few weeks after it opened.  

And, Cabrales, if the menu hasn't changed, you should have the chestnut dessert and the orange mille-feuille and the dreamy coffee dessert and the chocolate cake, too (even if you do stop at Berthillon first).  Then taste the niblets that come with your coffee.  The sweets are as surprising as the savories.

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Dorie -- Thanks for the update.  What appetizer/entree did you have and how were they, if you have time?

On small restaurants, Les Ormes in Paris, which also recently received its first star, is supposed to be quite small too.  Have members visited it?

Finally, some sad quotes from Jacotte Brazier of La Mere Brazier, on not having any stars for the first time since 1932 (rough translation):  "I've failed to maintain the Brazier tradition, that's for sure, and it's pointless to seek excuses.  I will never claim that I have been wronged -- the Red Guide is a benchmark reference.  These are serious people who behave without bias, and who do not know restaurant owners.  They go and judge.  And I imagine that, to remove a star, they came more than once . . . . That means that there was something wrong, and, doubtlessly, that people wrote [to Michelin].  I've failed and that is what is most mortifying.  In 2001, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the restaurant; now, I've lost our star.  It's more than frustration; I've caused humiliation for our name ...."

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