Alain Passard raises vegetables to previously unimagined heights
There were those who thought Alain Passard was going mad when he announced several years back that he would turn L’Arpège’s focus to the vegetables he was raising at his biodynamic farm just outside Paris. Now, in 2015, it seems the epitome of fashion.
After nearly three decades of cooking at the highest level, Passard’s influence is more keenly felt than ever. An army of chefs who were touched by his vision are staking claims to the upper echelons of gastronomy, whether in the wilds of Sweden (Magnus Nilsson at Fäviken), the streets of Sydney (Mark Best at Marque), by the sea at Menton (Mauro Colagreco at Mirazur), or back home in Paris at the new-establishment (L’Astrance) or the just-plain-new (Tatiana Levha at Le Servan).
In Passard’s world grapefruit and almonds form the surprising but effective complement to the sweetest of peas. His brilliant reimagining of the tarte tatin doesn’t deconstruct the dish, but improves it, forming the apple slices into rosettes atop the pastry to maximise the surface area for caramelisation and texture. Rather than being an understudy, beetroot steals the limelight when it’s substituted for beef in a tartare replete with perfect, golden gaufrette potatoes, or in place of tuna in a take on nigiri, glistening with geranium oil. Passard is rightly considered a culinary genius but, more importantly, his food tastes sensational.