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Alain Dutournier – when wine inspires the dish…
The highly charismatic chef at Carré des Feuillants in Paris probably has the most extensive and in-depth knowledge of wine today of any chef in France.
Is it still possible to drink renowned wines in great restaurants?
When a great chef meets a great winegrower... sparks fly!
We should, however, qualify this remark and specify that not all great chefs have an innate sensibility to wine. For some, wine is actually just a “coefficient”, a way to make a margin by selling a bottle for 80 or 100 euros in the dining room, when it cost only 10 on leaving the cellar. Result? Customers with a taste for wine are reduced to just ordering mineral water or wine by the glass, though even these are not cheap options! Revered like an artist, the modern chef finds it hard to accept the idea that a great wine should be drunk for itself and, taking the lead role, can have precedence over and determine the dish.
In the 1980s, Alain Senderens (founder of Lucas Carton) was the first chef to question this implicit subordination of wine to the dish. A great wine possesses its very own architecture and its personality is dominant: it cannot therefore be relegated to the rank of “accompanist” but must, on the contrary, inspire the dish. A question of absolute harmony, certainly, but also of energy: from the terroir where the wine is sourced, to the dish that has been created with this wine in mind it is, in the end, the same energy that flows. Senderens has thus recounted a thousand times how one day, when he was tasting an old Château de Beaucastel (one of the most famous Châteauneuf-du-Papes) with a gamy bouquet, the idea came to him that this wine “which smelt of hare’s belly” would be ideally matched by a lièvre à la royale (braised hare)… A great dish for a great wine, the perfect combination!
Alain Dutournier continues in his own way the work of discovery initiated by Alain Senderens. Best restaurateur sommelier in Paris and member of the Académie du Vin de France, Dutournier stands out from other great chefs by his phenomenal knowledge of wine and his ability to create a dish based on a wine. The menu he has developed for his Carré des Feuillants restaurant reads like a novel, the prestigious appellations going hand in hand with almost unknown table wines… And all this – oh joy – at comparatively affordable prices!
A cuisine that ventures off the beaten track
In culinary terms, Alain Dutournier also gives the impression of being an exception in a gastronomic landscape that is today very civilised and conventional. This native of the Adour region, brought up on wild salmon, foie gras and Chalosse beef, learnt from his mother how to concoct delicious meals with “next to nothing” – which requires a lot of imagination…
His refined cuisine is always constructed around three basic ingredients: oyster, seaweed and caviar / shrimp, melon and saffron / lobster, almond and fennel / eel, chanterelle and apricot / John Dory, cauliflower and horseradish / sea bream, peas and mango / young partridge, potimarron pumpkin and hazelnuts / date, ginger and saffron…
Far from the endless emulsions, consisting mainly of air, which disintegrate in two minutes and leave your plate as empty as an oyster shell, Dutournier has decided to remain true to his childhood by creating a cuisine rich in strong flavours, as illustrated by his crayfish jelly, foie gras and sweetbread, or his truffled fattened pullet from Béarn with spring vegetables.
Carré des Feuillants
14, rue Castiglione 75001 Paris
Tel: + 33 (0)1 42 86 82 82