• The World's 50 Best Restaurants

The Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award 2016

Alain Passard, Arpège, Paris, France

Alain Passard has always been very different from other chefs.

Ultra-discreet, he has never appeared on television, nor published a wealth of books or opened restaurants around the world – unlike many of his more high-profile counterparts. Even when his cooking style took a 180-degree turn, from meat-led to vegetable-led cuisine, there were no public statements or interviews.

And yet his Paris restaurant, Arpège, has held three Michelin stars for 20 years and appeared regularly in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the last decade. Without ever promoting himself or being a natural networker, Passard’s influence on other chefs and on culinary thinking is both widespread and profound.

He learnt how to cook with his grandmother, who was a chef, in a galley kitchen with charcoal, iron and embers. At the family home, located between a bakery and a restaurant in Brittany, his room was right next to the bakery. For years he woke at 4am to the smell of fresh bread and pastries.

Growing up with a musician father and seamstress mother, working precisely with his hands came naturally to the young Breton. At 15, he decided he must become a chef and began his apprenticeship soon afterwards, propelling him on a journey that would lead to the top of the gastronomic world. In his twenties, he was mentored by the great Alain Senderens, from whom he took over the premises in Paris that would become Arpège in 1986.

Passard believes passionately that chefs are responsible for what they source and what they serve to the customers. But they are not the only ones. During the mad cow crisis he dared to tell the truth about the situation, causing ripples across the food industry in France. He also took a momentous decision: to stop cooking and serving red meat. As a true rôtisseur, he found this painful, but ultimately necessary.

From being a side dish, vegetables became the dish at Arpège, though the restaurant continues to include fish and poultry alongside its stellar legumes. For Passard this was a rebirth; and the combinations presented on the plate are endless and amazing. The kitchen sources its produce from its own three gardens located within a 200km radius of Paris. One of them, situated in front of Mont Saint Michel near the sea, is 100% organic, with no machinery, just six gardeners working with their hands.

A lover of art and music, but most of all a chef who respects nature deeply and humbly, the 59-year-old has inspired a generation of cooks that see in Arpège the quintessence of grande cuisine.

Arpège
84 Rue de Varenne
75007, Paris
+33 1 47 05 09 06
alain-passard.com

The celebrated French chef who puts vegetables centre stage

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