I got to see the White House, I got to see the White House, I got see the White House ....
No silly – not in the United States – in Paris!!! I got to go check out the kitchens of the Palais de l'Elysée because I happen to cook with one of their former chefs.
This weekend Chef François took the viande and garnish chefs from the restaurant I cook at to see what the President of France, Jacques Chirac, gets to eat and where it's cooked. I can't even begin to tell you how cool it was just to enter the Palais which is heavily guarded on all sides. You can't even walk on the side walk around the Palais unless you have a permit.
After a thorough security check we were allowed to enter on the side entrance to the kitchens. I have never seen a kitchen so large in my life! There were seperate kitchens for every sort of food preparation imaginable – from dessert, to pastry, to sugar sculpting, to catering, main kitchen, to garde manger. I'm sure the pastry chefs were in hog heaven with Italian marble countertops that sprawled for miles and air conditioning (so rare in French kitchens).
The main kitchen was enormous and spotlessly clean with huge copper pots and molds hanging everwhere. All the copper dates back to 1815 and has been used at the Palais for that long. If only the copper pots could talk, I wonder what stories and recipes they would tell...
The most fascinating part to me was not the kitchen but the guarded room that houses all the china and silver for the Palais. What can I say? I'm female after all. The man who showed us the cutlery had worked at the Palais for 30 years taking care of all the table settings. He carefully brought out the silver chests for us and described each piece in detail.
They use silver for dinner and gold for dessert – gold for dessert! Just like I do at home! No really, they use gold to eat dessert with. But the chests – oh my heavens – they filled an entire room. Over 300 full sets in gold and silver. A full set includes all the usual forks, knives, and spoons but also specialty pieces like caviar spoons, oyster forks, foies gras knives, etc, etc, etc.
The fine china was museum quality. Some of the china I was showed dated back to Napoleon III and I'm sure there were pieces that went back even further. All the dessert plates were hand painted and signed by the artist. They ranged from in price from $300 – $3000 per plate.
If you sat down to an eight course meal at the Palais you could potentially be eating off of $24,000 worth of china not to mention another $10, 000 in sliver and gold tablesettings. What can I say? I'm worth it!
I couldn't leave without getting a shot with the executive chef. He was an excellent host and allowed me to snap tons of photos.
We came, we saw, we left through the side entrance. I guess that's the breaks for us cooks – no eating off silver or gold today. Back to our unbearably hot, cramped, meager 3-star restaurant tomorrow. Ho hum. Just another day in Paris...