Rejoice! Senderens meets Japan…


…in a three-day-event most of you won’t be able to attend, I’m afraid. Yet thanks to French Food Fool (and to Keiko, my generous Japanese colleague who invited me) you’ll get an idea about what will be going on at the restauration temple at Place de la Madeleine. Today, the grand old master Alain Senderens was wandering around in a cook’s jacket, chatting here, shaking hands there, embracing friends, and talking about French and Japanese cuisines, about fusion, about globalisation and what goût might mean today. All of this over a brilliant lunch that started here today:

Carpaccio of marinated mackerel with yuzu and sansho berries: spell "great".

Senderens is one of the founding fathers of what we call Nouvelle Cuisine today but he never got as much media interest as when he “gave back” his three stars to the Michelin in 2005 (after almost 30 years on the 3-star-summit), claiming that he was no longer convinced by the criteria and overall concept of the world’s most renowned food guide. That he had reached the age of 66 back then might have played a role. That it was easier to make money without crystal glasses and heavy silver tableware, too. But anyway, Senderens was a globalist and fusion guy avant la lettre. Have a look at today’s second course:

Warm lobster with a springtime coleslaw and tonburi: amazing stuff.

In the 1970s already, Senderens started to use Japanese products and introduced them thoroughly in his high-class cuisine. “The critics back then”, he told us today, “bashed me for that kind of Japanization.” That was quite short-sighted, to say the least. Nowadays, Tokyo’s restaurants hold more Michelin-stars than the Parisians (!), and Senderens was one of those who recognized that trend long before the European food inspectors. The Japanese cuisine, he said, “marked me right away. It changed my whole way of thinking about cooking”. Which leads to creations like this one, today’s third course:

Steamed rouget in a broth perfumed with cherry tree leaves: brilliant.

In a way, Senderens rejects being dubbed a fusion cook though. In fact, he has never been after wildly assembled pleasures, he has always gone for the real, pure, authentic and overall tasty goods and meals. Yet he constantly wanted to give traditions a twist, a new edge, without just being fancy. The classics of the French cuisine, that’s what he has always thought and practiced, can use some refreshment. And the Japanese cooking can be enchanted when confronted with products like the canard de Challans, the best duck species to be found in France (and anywhere), fourth course of today’s lunch:

Roast duck "de Challans" marinated in aged saké: a masterpiece.

I’ll skip the desserts (which were not at eye-level with the starters and the mains to tell the truth) and instead I’ll introduce you to Mr. Alain Senderens:

Grand old master: Alain Senderens at his restaurant today, Place de la Madeleine.

And I introduce you to the two chefs who did all the real work in the kitchen: Jérôme Banctel from Senderens and his colleague Hisato Nakahigashi from Miyamasou (invited and sponsored, by the way, by Nishikidori Market who wants to boost its fine food supply business):

Two brilliant chefs: Jérôme Banctel and Hisato Nakahigashi.

The only problem with events like this? Well, you can’t really go back to work just like that. You feel like needing the rest of the day to digest – mentally – the pleasures you just had. The good time that only great food can bring.

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For all you Japanese speakers: Keiko’s food blog seems to be a real must.

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