Alain Passard

Nature wrote the best book.

Alain Passard is 61 years old and he is one of France’s most famous chefs. He has been managing his internationally famous restaurant called l’Arpège for almost 30 years. Three decades ago its’ name was l’Archestrate – it was the name given by Passard’s mentor, Alain Senderens, who was the previous owner of the restaurant. Passard bought it and changed the name to l’Arpège to reflect his passion for music. For aesthetic reasons, he redecorated it in Art Deco style. Passard opened l’Arpège in 1986 and gained three Michelin stars by 1996.

Passard shocked the whole cooking world by banning meat from his restaurant and presenting his new menu largely based on vegetables and seafood. He set up three organic gardens in the surrounding area of Paris to make sure he gets fresh fruits and vegetables of the highest quality and in the right season, with both of these gardens having special kinds of soil suiting particular products. When the news about this transformation spread, the French media praised Passard for his decision. He was called “ the vegetable lover”, “the vegetable craftsman”, and “the vegetable artist”. There were even those asking him whether he was a living god, considering his enormous cooking skills.   

Passard was born in a musical family in the small town of La-Guerche-de-Bretagne in Brittany on August 4, 1956. His father played clarinet, saxophone, and drums, while his mother was a seamstress. Alain himself has played sax for years as a hobby. Apart from nature, music is the greatest passion in his life. His grandmother Louise Passard-Alain was supportive for his first steps in cooking. She passed the cooking secrets to her grandson while they sat together around the fire in her kitchen. Alain learned the finest points of her cooking skills in a short time and put them into practice. Louise also instilled Alain with love to cooking, they really enjoyed shopping together. She taught him how to choose the right ingredients in the market, prepare them, mix them, cook them and all the other details that make the meal an unforgettable event.

Nature is the most important source of inspiration for him. He loves to say that “nature wrote the best cookbook, but I simply follow the seasons and use what grows from the soil”.

Like his grandmother, Alain has enough imagination to turn a simple apple pie into a bouquet of exotic roses.

He was apprenticed to the local baker at La Guerche being 10 years old, and by the age of 15 he was already working in the kitchen of Lyon d’Or, which was run by Michel Krever – one of the first chefs holding a Michelin star in Brittany at that time. He gained a lot of professional experience there and was introduced to the basic elements of the classic French cuisine, including making sauces, slicing ingredients, and the basics of banquet service as well as taking the opportunity to do special research on such issues as Chaud-Froid poultry and the preparation of the Bellevue rock lobster.

From 1975 to 1976 he worked at the 3-star La Chaumiere restaurant in Reims under the patronage of Gaston Boyer, who was committed to an absolutely traditional style of the classic French cuisine. His varied experience has taught him the importance of creative thinking. He won the first two Michelin stars at Le Duc D’Enghien at the Enghien Casino in the outskirts of Paris being only 26. He was very proud of this achievement.

He then moved to Carlton in Brussels in 1984. Since then he has gained a good reputation in the cooking world and many chefs were inspired by his approach.

Signature dish:  

Rose Apple Pie  

Serves: 6 tartlets

Ingredients

  • 6 mini pie crusts, baked (6 oz pie crust; 170g)
  • 2½ apples 
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons chopped walnut

For caramel glaze:

  • ½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
  • ¼ cup water (60ml)

Instructions

1. In a bowl mix granulated sugar and ground cinnamon.

2. Finely slice unpeeled apples.

3. In a large non-stick frying pan, spread sugar-cinnamon mixture, 1 tablespoon for one apple. When the sugar starts to melt, arrange apple slices and over medium heat cook for 1 minute without flipping. When the apple slices are wilted down, transfer them to a large plate. The caramelized side should face upwards, otherwise, the slice might stick to the plate. And let completely cool. Repeat with the remaining apple slices. And divide chopped walnuts among the baked mini tart shells.

4. For apple roses, start with a small slice. Roll the slices until the rose reaches the size you want. and roll it. Then arrange over the walnuts. Repeat until the mini tart shells are full of flowers.

5. Warm the pies in the oven preheated to 390 degrees F. (190C) for 5 minutes.

6. To make caramel glaze, add in granulated sugar in a thick-bottom pan. Over medium heat, melt sugar without water and cook until the sugar starts to turn light brown. Very carefully add in ¼ cup of water and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. And brush the apple roses with caramel glaze.

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