No catering school, no apprenticeship, no stints at major restaurants... Anne-Sophie Pic hesitated for a long time before devoting herself entirely to cooking, in 1997. She came to this profession 'solely to create', but has managed to impose her style in a still largely male-dominated world... Anne-Sophie Pic
is an attaching and unsettling person who you'd say has something strong and mysterious deep down inside, pure passion which underscores the delicacy of her movements, expressions and voice.
The latest offspring of a prestigious dynasty of chefs* whose history goes back to 1889 (when her great grandmother, Sophie Pic, established the Auberge du Pin above Saint-Péray), she is a self-made woman for sure!
We would perhaps have liked a more intimate and maternal place to feel the presence of this tasteful and strong-minded woman: with its brand new decor, 88 employees, Relais & Châteaux classified hotel-restaurant and chic brasserie on the legendary Nationale 7, the Maison Pic comes across straight away as a perfectly oiled company.
Everything is tip-top, from the welcome to the flowers decorating the tables. But isn't the soul of the establishment essentially this woman bearing the history of her family?
Very young, Anne-Sophie discovered the world of flavours in haute gastronomy more than in local cuisine, as evidenced by her love of sea produce.
Her father Jacques, whose portrait is omnipresent in the establishment, had created an anthological dish in 1971: bass with caviar, which she continues to serve unaltered, in homage.
Self-trained and never having been through a catering school, Anne-Sophie took a while before finding her style.
Her cuisine with pronounced tastes gives great importance to lightness, like her emulsions, reduced juices, aspics and internationally borrowed techniques like scallops à la Catalane or bass steamed over wakame.
Her dishes express precision, the quintessence of taste, a search for the sweet (especially in vegetables) and also a love of freshness, like her delicious Gillardeau oyster number 3 coated with a creamy sauce with old Parmesan flavoured with Granny Smith apple.
Each dish is set off with a multitude of details (chocolates, toffees, calissons, thin sweet biscuits and mousselines, flowers) emphasising the feminine and mischievous aspect of her cuisine.
From Rémuzat lamb to hare with chestnuts from Ardèche without forgetting Le Puy lentils, blue cheese from Sassenage, Saint-Marcellin cheese, Nyons olive oil and black truffle from Haute-Provence, regional products encourage Anne-Sophie Pic to achieve unexpected associations of flavours.
For instance, her most impressive dish is perhaps her line-caught bass meunière** which exalts 'rustic' products such as the Grenoble nuts and caramelised Cévennes sweet onions.
Of infinite grace, this bass that melts in your mouth combines excellently with the sweetness of a caramel sauce with vin jaune and nuts: a truly exceptional range of flavours!
*André Pic, her grandfather, obtained 3 stars in 1934, which made Curnonsky say: 'There are three creators of modern cuisine: Dumaine, Pic and Point'. In 1973, Jacques, her father, won back the 3 stars lost after the war.
**Cooking method: the fish is basted with lemon juice and melted butter with parsley.
Wine waiter Denis Bertrand, who has clocked up a quarter of a century of service at Pic, proposes a splendid selection of wines from the Rhone valley (Saint-Péray, Condrieu, Hermitage, Cornas, Côtes du Rhône, etc.) with a special liking for the rare Côte-Rôtie by Jean-Luc Jamet.
Admittedly the prices are those of a 3-star restaurant. 'In the 1980s, Denis Bertrand tells us, you could treat yourself to the pleasure of an outstanding wine. Today with an international clientele ready to fork out 3,000 euros for a wine, speculation is rife.'
The prizewinnner in 2005 of the 9th World Pastry Cup between teams, the most discreet chef-patissier Philippe Rigollot concocts light desserts of complex architecture.
Among his compositions, mention can be made of the raspberry and red pepper (raspberry and red pepper marmalade and sorbet, Manjari Chantilly), Granny Smith apple and Bourbon vanilla (almond financier, green apple sorbet and marmalade, foamy Manzana) or else the 2007 version of the Black Forest gateau (lightened Manjari chocolate mousse, crunchy tube with Griottine marmalade, ivory sorbet).
285, avenue Victor Hugo
26 000 Valence
Tel.: 04 75 44 15 32
Lunch menu at 79 €. Menu 'Premiers Frimas' at 135 €. Menu 'Actualités' at 185 €.
You can also eat at the restaurant Le 7 designed as a light-hearted tribute to the Nationale 7 running alongside the Maison Pic: set menu at 17 € at lunchtime and 30 € in the evening.