HEG: Final Lunch at Assiette ChampenoiseBy Marisa D'Vari | October 29th, 2012 | Category: HEG, News | No Comments »
... so after checking out of the Hotel de la Paix, w3 headed for our last luxurious lunch at the celebrated L'Assiette Champenoise. It was a very glamorous space, run by Arnaud Lallement grew up in a restauranteur family in Châlons-sur-Vesle. At 18, with a Diploma from the Strasbourg Hotel & Catering College in his pocket, Arnaud went off to learn his trade alongside the great names in French cuisine, like Roger Vergé, Chef of the legendary Moulin de Mougins, Michel Guérard, one of the longest-standing 3-star chefs in France, or Alain Chapel and his famous establishment in Mionnay.
With all this experience behind him, the 26 year old joined his father, Jean-Pierre, who had been running the ‘Assiette Champenoise’ since 1975.
Arnaud was 26 when he took over responsibility for the kitchens, and in 2001, the it was awarded its first Michelin star. In 2003, Arnaud, at 29, was the youngest chef selected by Alain Ducasse to take part in the Fou-Food France adventure — an operation that enables young provincial chefs to come and present their work at one of the finest restaurants in Paris, the Plaza Athénée. In 2006, Arnaud entered the Association des Grandes Tables du Monde. In 2009, the Gault & Millau guide recognized the ‘Assiette’, voted ‘Establishment of the Year’, then in 2010 awarded it a fourth toque. In 2010, the ‘Assiette Champenoise’ also celebrated its 35th birthday, as well as 10 years of collaboration between Arnaud Lallement and Olivier Krug, with whom he regularly produces dishes to perfectly accompany their champagnes.
I attended an exclusive guest lunch - prepared by Roger Verge and also Jean Troisgros and a few other famous french names (and with the chefs attending themselves!) several years ago and was looking forward to the experience. I could only stay for one course at Assiette Champenoise yet was satisfied with the creativity of the presentation and the elegance of the dish and its unique flavors, yet what surprised me the most was the service. Good service - even excellent service - can be found all over the world. We've all seen servers stand around the table, waiting to put the plates down in unison, and yes they did do this well. Yet watching the servers was like watching an orchestral performance when everything is synchronized. No - perhaps more than a ballet. Waiters were constantly circling around us in what can almost be described as a dance, picking up plates and silverwear and putting down new (empty) plates and fresh silverwear. At any rate, looking forward to going back when I can experience this on a more intimate basis.
Mr. Oliver Krug's uncle, Remi Krug. is the Chairman of Hautes Etudes du Gout (HEG for short) and we were so honored to have him present and making toasts at this fabulous lunch. Also honored to have Colette Padet, Director of Studies for HEG at the Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, join as well.
Reflecting on this lunch and the speeches by Mr. Remi Krug, I remembered his first speech on the first day, when he explained how the program was created and how it "would all make sense in the end" ... and it did.
Most of us were in a festive mood, having taken the punishingly difficult test in the morning. I studied quite a bit yet even if I studied more some of the nuances of the questions would not have made any difference in the result.
An interesting thing also is that many of the professors were very charismatic personalities. Some (most?) very charming. No one was boring yet the majority were deeply involved in their field and very passionate. Also interesting to note that charm and passion had no correlation to age. Indeed the oldest professors were intensely creative and curious about their subject.
We came from all corners of the world and many instant friendships developed based on relative age (a handful of post-college singles) and nationality.
Think only 3 North Americans yet with English a universal language it was widely spoken.
Lots of French speakers - I could understand and often listened to lectures in French, depending on the speaking style of the presenter. Of course accent is everything in France and for me that is a work in progress.
At any rate an incredible opportunity to spend two weeks with a few dozen people from around the world who shared a similar passion for the pleasures of the table. Our 'leader' (project manager) Edwige Sibille did a fabulous job of arranging the visits and professors. I am looking forward to writing my thesis and returning next year to celebrate.