Introducing Nicholas Beaumann, the new Executive Chef at the two Michelin star restaurant Michel Rostang in Paris!
Nicholas did his apprenticeship at Michel Rostang after culinary school and worked his way up through the brigade to Chef de Parti. After five years, he left to take the position of sous chef at Le Meurice, under Executive Chef Yannik Alleno, and helped drive the team to 3 Michelin Star success.
I met Chef Beaumann during his tenure at Le Meurice five years ago. And if rumors in the Parisian cooking world hold true, he was highly regarded then for his consistency in leadership and dedication to perfection. He's a bit of a whip cracker, but a good one.
Now he is back at Michel Rostang as the Executive chef, and I am sure he will be reaching for a third Michelin star in the near future.
What a small world the Michelin star restaurant business is. Everyone knows everyone...
I sit down to dine at Michele Rostang and instantly I'm treated like an old friend. Bruno, The Maître D, and Alain, the Chef Sommelier, who I've met only a few times in the past keep me company asking about my exerience at Le Bernardin in NYC.
How's Maguy Le Coz? (the owner of Le Bernardin). Is there a man named Tommy there? He works on the floor? We remember Le Bernardin when it was in Paris! (This was over 20 years ago and once located in the space that is now Guy Savoy). Are you coming back to live in Paris? (No, wish I was). Work at Guy Savoy peut-être? (No, don't think I could handle the long hours again or the double taxation).
Guy Savoy, the restaurant I cooked at in Paris is located just a few blocks away from restaurant Michele Rostang in the 17th arrondisement close to the L'Arc de Triumph and the Champs Élysées. The two restaurants share clientele, a similar style of cuisine (traditional yet modern), and often cooks jump ship from one to the other. It's a good relationship and one that has spanned 20 years.
This small world does have it's perks. The Maître D takes me with him to another table to demonstrate how the 'duck press' works. (I just asked to see it, I didn't ask to be part of the table-side presentation.)
"Are you sure they won't mind? I don't want to disrupt their dinner."
"Oh don't worry, they won't mind, they're regulars, come on, I'll show you how to press a duck, it will be fun!"
I can't imagine being a regular at any Michelin star restaurant, but follow along for the ride. Bruno expertly cuts the legs off the duck and then the breasts. He places them to one side.
"Amy, you cook the duck rare, very rare. See? The breast is almost bleu."
I watch from the side feeling slightly self-concious that I have now been included in the entertainment. But at the same time realize that this little teaching demonstration is something special.
He takes the bones and the legs and put them expertly in a silver canister. Then loads the canister inside a very large silver hand cranked press that is decorated with ornate silver ducks.
"Now watch. You must come over on this side to see. I will turn the press, and the blood of the duck will run out of the spout. I add it to this duck jus here and the blood thickens the sauce turning it a rich dark brown color."
It's beautiful and a little bizarre at the same time. What Bruno is really doing is crushing bones in a very expensive bone-crusher machine. I watch in amazement at this lost art of table side presentation. Servers in France go to school to learn how to do this sort thing. It is a career – a profession! – not a temporary job to make a few tips in between Broadway musicals auditions.
The Maître D whisks his mixture over a low burning flame. As the blood heats up it acts as a thickener turning the thin duck jus into a velvety sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Blood, as we all know, coagulates.
He pours the chocolate colored sauce onto a large porcelain platter that rests above silver bunsen burners, not exactly camping material. Next, he returns to the breasts and slices off extra thin cutlets placing them directly into the sauce
"You see, the sauce will cook the duck just a little more. If you cook the sauce too much over the heat it will separate because of the blood. You must pay attention here. It's a strong tasting dish, but a good one."
I have tasted several blood sauces in my Parisian past and made plenty at Le Cordon Bleu. For me they are normally a little too rich for my taste. And blood does have a special metalic taste. Nonetheless, the platter is gorgeous with bright red cutlets of duck breast floating in the earthy sauce. A server whisks away the platter to serve immediately.
I am escorted back to my table which faces the kitchen so I can watch all the action of the evening. Chef Beaumann has prepared a truffle menu that is truly inspired. I wasn't presented with a menu upon arrival, just a glass of champagne and a huge basket of truffles to ogle over! Some one pinch me please?!?!
I love truffles, but in many cases truffle menus can be somewhat redundant with the same flavors repeated. Not so in this case.
The menu begins with a special amuse bouche: 1/4"-thick slices of black truffles sandwiched in between two pieces of pain de compagne (country bread). The sandwiches are toasted in truffle butter and cut into bite size fingers. Simple yes, but totally decadent.
Actually, I'm lying, the amuse bouche is not so easy to prepare and it must be assembled days in advance to allow the truffles to fully permeate the bread and butter. But the idea is easy enough and the ingredients, although expensive, are few.
My two favorite courses of the evening are the seabass and pigeon. The fish is cooked sous vide (in a water bath at low temperature with a thermo circulator that holds the temerparture steady) garnished with thinly sliced chestnuts, perfectly cut triangles of leeks, and a frothy truffle infused seashell foam.
But the real winner is the last course: pigeon stuffed with foie gras and black truffles under the skin, cooked sous vide until perfectly tender and then pan roasted to sear the skin crisp. The plate is garnished minimally with caramelized salsify. A perfect pairing for the pigeon.
Caramelizing (glazing) vegetables is an art. Too cooked and the vegetables fall apart, too much butter and the lacquer separates, too much sugar and the flavor is ruined.
The pigeon jus is just what jus is supposed to be: pure. There is no roux, no flour, no butter – just pigeon jus reduced for a long time until it has the consistency of oil. I know from experience, this is time consuming. We're talking hours of reduction here.
The wine pairings are fantastic, and by my last course I'm wondering why I'm still not totally wasted. This little wine habit I've developed has definitely got to be reined in. I have tasted (and finished, bien sûr!) five glasses of wine. Starting with a glass of lively Gimonnet Blanc de Blanc Premier Cru Champagne 2002 and ending with an earthy Nuit St. Georges Premier Cru Vaucrains 2003.
But the most exciting wine of the evening for me is the golden yellow Beaucastel Blanc 2005, paired with the seabass. I absolutely adore white Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc and it is so difficult to find in the U.S.
If you've never tried a white Chateauneuf du Pape, I suggest you do. It has viognier grape blended with 12-13 other obscure white varietals. It's sexy with a nose of ripe melon, pear, peach and loads of minerality. A heavier white for sure, compared to other French whites.
The desserts start rolling in and Chef Beaumann takes a break from the kitchen and joins me at the table while the rest of his kitchen staff is scrubbing down the stainless steel.
I sip a 6th glass of wine, a nicely acidic Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum 2005, while inhaling an apple-truffle pastry as he fills me in on his last few years: his recent marriage (Congrats! It's about time!), his beautiful son (adorable!), his bid to be the next M.O.F (scrreeeeech – wait whuuuuut????).
For those not familliar with the title of M.O.F. it stands for Meillure Ouvrier de France and it is a craftsmen competition held every three years in France. To win this title for cuisine is like winning an Emmy. Every chef that makes the grade gets to wear (forever) a special chef's jacket that has a collar made of red, white, and bleu – the French flag. It is an honor hard won.
The sommelier refills my wine glass and now I'm headed straight to hell, because I'm still not even close to tipsy. I finish it, of course, then slurp down an espresso with little cakes and cookies.
Normally I would never get this kind of attention, but it's a slow Monday night. For the most part restaurants in Paris are closed Sunday and Monday and folks generally stay home. And I think it's fun for the staff to treat a cook to 'the other side' once and awhile. I know we do it at Guy Savoy and at Le Bernardin.
Chef Beaumann takes me back to the kitchen to meet some of the staff and I am happily surprised to see an equal number of female to male cooks. I recognize the female Chef de Viande (meat chef) as the wife of the Sommelier at Guy Savoy (small world, small world) and we exchange greetings before she goes back to scrubbing.
"Chef Beaumann, you have so many women in the kitchen!"
"I knew you would like that." He laughs.
And just when I think the evening can't get any better the daughter of Michel Rostang, Caroline, who is the director of the restaurant introduces herself. Another female in the kitchen! I couldn't be happier.
I float out the front door (glass slippers and all) a little high on the whole experience. The frosty winter Parisian air hits my lungs and my thin silky dress instantly feels like cheesecloth. The wine has no doubt warmed my core and my spirits or I'd be a five foot five ice cube.
I catch a taxi, replay the photos on my camera during the drive home, and wonder if I'll ever have another dinner quite like this one...
Restaurant Michel Rostang
20 rue Rennequin, Paris, 75017
+33 1 47 63 40 77