Chef's Tour: The Ardeche, France
It’s not every day that one of France’s most respected chefs—we’re talking the three-Michelin-star, Bocuse d’ Or-winning ilk—would travel to Manhattan and cook for an entire weekend. In fact, it’s been more than 20 years since Régis Marcon of Hôtel et Restaurant Régis et Jacques Marcon has cooked in New York City.
Marcon brought his talented sons Jacques and Paul with him last weekend, teaming up with longtime friend Daniel Boulud to create a series of exquisite meals out of Boulud’s equally Michelin-star-studded Restaurant Daniel. After dropping by the kitchen to chat with Chef Marcon during the city’s annual Citymeals-on-Wheels benefit (Boulud is co-president this year—check out his awesome new Chefs Deliver initiative), I’m dying to dine at his restaurant in France’s south-central Ardèche region. Read on, and then fight me for the last available aisle seat to France tomorrow.
Q: What is the Ardèche like?
A: The northern part of the region, where my restaurant is located, is wild and mountainous—it’s similar to Scotland’s landscape. It’s known for hiking and cross-country skiing, as well as for its bounty of herbs and mushrooms. My town is called Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, where there are seven restaurants and just 220 people—it’s essentially a gastronomic village. The best season to visit is in the autumn, when the trees are turning and the mushrooms are coming out, and when I organize foraging walks.
Q: You’re famous for your mastery of mushrooms—what fascinates you about them?
A: There are about 70 different types of mushrooms in the Ardèche; I use them both fresh and dried. I like the wide range of textures and tastes, of course, but I also like the different colors you can produce when combining them. One of my dishes is a simple blend of 15 mushrooms that plays on these ideas. I especially like tricolome prétentieux, which has the aroma of oysters.
Q: Entice us with a signature dish at your restaurant.
A: I have a dish called couci-couça of lamb that’s rooted in local cooking traditions. When you do a mechoui, or spit-roasted lamb on a skewer, the person carving the lamb says to guests, couci-couça, meaning, "come to get whatever part of the lamb you want—the shoulder, the leg, etc." I serve my version with a praliné de cèpe, or mushroom praline.
Q: What do you admire most about Chef Boulud?
A: Daniel travels everywhere, but he also finds time to work on the line in his kitchens. He watches, he tastes things, and he’s always looking for improvements. It’s important for younger cooks to see a top chef like Daniel still working in the kitchen.
Q: Beach, forest, city, mountains—what’s is your ideal vacation?
A: The mountains. The first job I ever had was as a ski instructor, and I’ve loved skiing ever since.
Jennifer Flowers is the Travel News Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.