French gastronomy | The “in-room gesture” is back in service

(Paris) The “gesture in the dining room”, the very French know-how and spectacle of the maître d’hôtel who comes to flambé, plate, sauce and sometimes almost cook in front of the customer, is returning to service in gastronomy, after having long been outmoded by the fashion for service called “on the plate”.


At Christopher Coutanceau’s restaurant in La Rochelle, which has two stars in the prestigious Michelin guide, the first gesture in the dining room is “initiatory”: a plankton jelly placed on the inside of the customer’s hand, near the wrist.

“As we eat caviar, directly on the skin, to avoid any oxidation with a cover,” explains to AFP the chef, Nicolas Brossard, proud to have imagined it.

Far away, in this old house, are the days when we waited for customers “in line, hands behind our backs in a somewhat military fashion,” smiles Mr. Brossard.

In many French gourmet restaurants, the gesture in the dining room returns as a live spectacle enhancing the famous “experience” that customers expect from their meal costing several hundred euros.

At Taillevent, a Parisian institution with two Michelin stars, chef Giuliano Sperandio went so far as to call the five-course menu “Gestes”, from the caviar “quenellé” spooned by the waiter to the cutting of poultry at the table and up ‘to the emblematic crepe Suzette flambée.

For the “swimming” lobster, the head waiter peels the shell in a “mixture of brutality and delicacy”, before flambéing it with peated whisky.

“Create a link”

PHOTO CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

At Taillevent, a Parisian institution with two Michelin stars, chef Giuliano Sperandio went so far as to call the five-course menu “Gestes”, from the caviar “quenellé” spooned by the waiter to the cutting of poultry at the table and up ‘to the emblematic crepe Suzette flambée.

“It’s not just about creating a bond with our guests,” elaborates the chef. “Above all, it’s the assurance of finalizing the dish at the right temperature.”

This tradition of serving at the pedestal table, called “Russian style” and designed in the 19the century, was long associated with the high end, before suddenly declining in the 1960s.

“Restaurant room designers wanted to increase the number of seats and the chefs of the wave called “nouvelle cuisine” wanted to reduce the distribution of dishes on the plate, a plate which then becomes an artistic support,” he told AFP. butler and historian Gil Galasso, author of a thesis on the subject.

The maître d’hôtel and his ancestral know-how faded away, becoming, at the turn of the 2000s, “room manager” and very often reduced to restaurant communications.

“We have lost the gestures and the cutting”, agrees Hervé Parmentier, head chef at Pierre Gagnaire (three stars) for 30 years and nostalgic for the “golden age”, when you had to know how to make “10 bites ( pieces, Editor’s note) of a pigeon or a lovebird or even a leg of leg.”

Theater, dance… magic?

PHOTO GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Chef Stéphanie Le Quellec, two-starred, at her restaurant La Scène in Paris

“Then, around ten years ago, the chefs returned to the theatre”, thanks to their great media coverage, he believes.

THE top leader must be seen. But, despite the fashion for open kitchens, it cannot always be so.

The service, thought of as an extension of the television and theatrical show, has therefore become essential, with the maître d’ becoming “an extension of the hand” of the chef, explains the head chef at Stéphanie Le Quellec (two stars), Joseph Desserprix.

“Stéphanie is a fervent defender of the gesture, and of the beautiful gesture, and wants to put it back at the center, as with our preparation of raw-stitched langoustine, finished in very hot broth in front of the customer, on the trolley,” explains to the AFP this figure of the profession.

Joseph Desserprix, who obtained the high distinction “Best worker in France”, specialist in the unthinkable “cutting on the fly” (with one hand) of poultry, is obsessed with the gesture of service, influenced even during his travels , for example for a very post COVID-19 hand wash with a pitcher scented with Moroccan rose water.

The gesture of the future for this resurrected tradition of the past? “It’s the one that doesn’t yet exist,” he says with an inspired air, confident that he’s working on developing a “minute cheese,” a curd made in front of the customer.

For the French memory of the service, Gil Galasso, we will have to draw from the arts, “theater, dance” and why not… “magic”?


reference: www.lapresse.ca

Leave a Comment