Saturday, July 22, 2017

R.I.P. Alain Senderens

Alain Senderens is probably one of the greatest chefs that nobody has ever heard of.

Most of the modern clichés and techniques were invented by him. It's actually a tribute to his genius that they are so widespread that they have turned into clichés.

Just to mention two — the notion of "wine pairings" in restaurants, and the originally shocking pairing of lobster and vanilla.

The CC just happened to be in Paris a few days before M. Senderens passed away and he just happened to eat at a restaurant run by his most famous product, Alain Passard.

It isn't well known but L'Arpège was originally L'Archestrate. It's literally the space where the pupil learned from the master.

Note the names being rather classical. Arpeggio for the former, and Archestratus, the famous gastronome, for the latter.

Even the first syllable hasn't changed!

(And note that master and pupil share the same first name too.)

L'Arpège is deeply deeply based in French gastronomy at a level that no restaurant in New York ever will be or ever can be.

New York is too much of its own device. The whole world's cultures clash and rub against each other here generating furious sparks of electric energy and it's impossible for chefs not to be influenced by it. The offerings in a truly great restaurant reflect that unease and friction, and the sheer joie de vivre of new cultures and new ideas. Concepts could very well be incoherent but there's a furious sense of experimentation with ideas yet unexplored.

L'Arpège exists in a different space. It's inside a culture that understands itself, is entirely comfortable, and brings refinement to the palate. It may borrow from other cultures but its own sense of identity stands as rock-solid as the terroir.

Read a book of M. Senderens and you will understand in even a few pages that he may borrow ideas from Thailand, India or Japan, but at no point in time will the original French concept be subordinated. It will be integrated into the food grammar coherently.

Once you understand the difference, his genius just simply sits there in plain daylight.

Adieu, maestro, adieu.

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