Each year, the French Chef association, Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, gathers in France. Members from all over the world get together to talk secret Master Chef stuff, and to introduce the year’s new members. The meeting took place in Lyon, France and ran over the course of a few days. Master Chef Jean-Louis Dumonet and Master Chef Claude Godard scored me and Antonio an invitation to their gala at the Town Hall of Lyon. Here’s what went down.
We arrived at the town hall of Lyon (or as it is known there L’Hotel de Ville) around 7 pm. Since the event was sponsored by Champagne Mumm, there was plenty of bubbly to go around. We spent time with some amazing chefs including the incredibly sweet Master Chef Pierre Chambrin (former White House chef under the Senior Bush organization currently at the St. Louis club), Master Chef Jean-Louis Gerin (Chopped winner and Executive chef at NECI), and one of this year’s inductees Master Chef Serge Devesa of the Intercontinental New York Barclay.
The bubbly flowed, and aperitifs created by MCF/MOF Chef Gérard Vignat. They were simply delectable. The new members were celebrated on stage by the major of Lyon as well as the President of the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France Christian Têtedoie and the Head of the US/Canada delegation Jean-Louis Dumonet.
I learned what it takes to become a Maîtres Cuisiniers de France. In order to be considered, Chefs MUST BE French citizens, be at least 25 years old, and must have 10 years of kitchen experience. They must be sponsored by two MCF mentors. Once they have fulfilled all these requirements, they must wait…and wait…and wait until the association feels they have reached the “Master” level.
Master Chef Joel Guillon was this year’s recipient of the Toque d’Argent. I asked Chef Jean-Louis Dumonet to explain this honor. He replied “The toque d’argent (a.k.a. Trophee Andre Surmain) is named after the master chef who created it. It honors an active MCF in the US or Canada for his work in the association, celebrating his career. Among the previous recipients are Christian Delouvrier, André Soltner, Michel Richard, Daniel Boulud.
There were over 400 chefs at the dinner, including members of l’Academie Culinaire de France. The event was spread out over 5 gorgeous rooms clad in trompe l’oeil, crystal chandeliers, and stunning reliefs.
We settled down with Chef Devesa (and his charming father who put up with my horrible French), and chatted up all night about food from Marseille (my favorite city in France) and food in NYC. He, and his lovely father were fantastic company.
The first course was created by MCF/MOF Joseph Viola. It was a croute of veal sweetbreads and foie gras, with onion marmalade. This dish was all sorts of ridiculous. The croute was both indulgent, yet light. My head knew this was an incredibly rich dish, yet my mouth had no idea. It was a simple traditional French dish made with an incredibly sophisticated execution. It was paired with Mumm’s Brut Selection.
Our next was a pike mousseline, with lobster and vegetable juice, a stock of shells in pernod absinthe made by MCF/MOF Mathieu Viannay. There were a lot of elements in this dish. The mousseline of pike was light and fluffy. Funny enough, I normally “enjoy” lobster, but it is not usually something I order. I feel it is an over rated ingredient. Not in this dish. The lobster was flavorful, succulent, delicious. The chef even included romesco (which worked wonders with the pike) and shells of brussel sprouts that added both flavor and crunch. We sipped some Mumm Blanc de Blancs Mumm de Cramant.
MOF Guy Lassausaie showcased lamb as his ingredient, crusted in black bread with smoked garlic jus, and a shallot tatin with a bacon emulsion. The crust of the lamb was delicious. I had never had this before, and now I am on the hunt for black bread (Les Halles here I come). The lamb was pink in the middle (just how I like it) and the “bacon” when combined with the shallot tatin was heavenly. This dish was paired with Blanc de Noirs Mumm de Verzenay.
We finally arrived at dessert by Sebastien Bouillet of Relais Desserts International. The official title of the dish was “crispy sparkling hazelnut with red fruit compote, a muroise biscuit and chocolate mousse”. I loved this dish. He used pop rocks on the bottom layer…totally unexpected (I’ve had pop rocks in dessert before at Un Table Au Sud in Marseille, but the execution here was so much better). I found it fitting that dessert sparkled as well as all the bubbly we had during the evening (Mumm’s Rose was paired with this dish). I was also impressed that the chef utilized so many flavors and yet they worked together: hazelnut, raspberry, chocolate, pop rocks.
It was a lovely evening. Congratulations to the new inductees!