After twenty-some years spent in the backwaters of the Cher département, Thierry Finet has just opened a new restaurant in a handsome townhouse in Bourges. With great respect for the traditional foundations of French gastronomy, this former craftsman in wrought iron prepares modern dishes which make splendid use of spice and citrus fruit.
Thierry Finet and his wife Sylvie have been living in this fine 19C manor situated on the edge of the historic centre of Bourges since September 2008. Before the move, Finet used to delight a faithful clan of connoisseurs with his culinary prowess in Chateaumeillant, a small wine-growing town lost in the backwaters of the Berry between Châteauroux and Montluçon.
So many chefs are constrained by the defining lines of their cuisine that it’s a pleasure to watch Thierry Finet continue to evolve in his own grand, fluid and functional style. The restaurant itself is also delightful: completely refurbished, his new Piet à Terre has diners entering a real house and taking a seat in a lovely, modern dining room (added to the old structure) decorated with contemporary pieces.
An old hand in life changes, Thierry Finet went from welding iron to wielding pots and pans, two arts where mastery of fire is a must! He started cooking when he took over his father-in-law’s bar-tobacco shop. ‘I began by making crepes and ice cream sundaes,’ he says. It goes without saying that he has made amazing progress in the kitchen since then.
Thierry Finet’s cooking is wonderfully inspired, and it shows no sign of losing steam. The chef has found his calling, as expressed by a sharp, lively cuisine which calls upon citrus, fresh herbs and spices used with great expertise, and his appreciation of different kinds of salt – like the red Alae clay salt from the Hawaiian Islands. He prepares dense and perfumed concoctions which add just the right touch to hearty, generous meals - not the ‘dish concepts’ one finds all too often in creative cuisine. Passionate and inventive, he leaves his mark, but is well aware that in the kitchen as in the atelier, certain rules must be followed.
His teachers and friends are called Troisgros (Roanne), Vigato (Apicius, Paris) and Verger (Mougins). The Troisgros brothers, whom he reveres, taught him all the basics, plus an enduring appreciation of the finest ingredients.
Behind his foie gras, there’s a small-scale farmer in the Périgord who works morning ‘til night every day of the week; behind the lobster or line-fished bass, there’s a real live fisherman. Thierry Finet is completely loyal when it comes to his suppliers: Monsieur Alleaume in the Creuse raises magnificent foie gras ducks; the heart of fillet of Charolais beef comes from the Demasse cattle farm; Monsieur Bocquet grows rare vegetables like pineapple and evergreen tomatoes and stem lettuce. In his own kitchen garden in Chateaumeillant, Finet cultivates herbs and unusual plants such as Swiss chard, nasturtium, tuberous parsley and parsnips.
Le Piet à Terre in a nutshell
The place: a large manor in centre city
The decor: a sizeable designer dining room in grey tones, with ceramics and abstract paintings, plus metal sculptures in the garden…
A bonus: you can have drinks on the terrace and coffee in the drawing room
A dish: the pigeon with hay
Dessert: the hibiscus piña-colada ice with blueberry apple fruit wine, or the more classic individual almond and pear tart
The scallops served at Piet à Terre are bought from fishermen from Erquy or Loctudy whom the chef has known for twenty-odd years. Succulent inside and perfectly seared, his smashing scallops are accompanied by carrots with blood oranges, a citrus-cumin sauce and a dried fruit chutney made with spices used by the Mapuche Indians from Chile (a blend of dried, smoked chilli peppers, roasted cilantro and salt) which adds a gentle spiciness to the dish. It’s lively and spirited – and there’s not a moment of ennui.
His menu also presents some of the characteristic dishes which he’s known for, like bass with young spinach leaves and verbena, or pigeon with hay. This dish is inspired by a recipe by Aurore Sand, George Sand’s daughter, who used it to cook rabbit. In Finet’s version, the pigeon is fried, cooled, cooked in a casserole on a bed of hay and vegetables, then cut and prepared again, served with a liver gravy as a salmi accompanied by a puree of potato pieces with fresh truffle bits. Very enthusiastic about juices, sauces and consommés, like a 21st century Escoffier, Thierry Finet makes use of modern plant-based thickeners like agar agar and carageenan, as well as Japanese vegetables such as shiso, tahoon and sakura. No matter what he’s throwing together, his cuisine is always worth discovering!
Le Piet à Terre
44 Boulevard Lahitolle
Tel: 02 48 67 95 60