The Kitchen at Le Gourmandin

April 20, 2009 15:31 – 15:31

In my April 17th posting, I wrote a bit about Le Gourmandin, the restaurant where we dined on Friday night. I’d like to say a little more, now that my source of blogging information has been capped (for now, since we’re home). We arrived without a reservation. As a result, we were seated deep in the bowels of the restaurant. We were seated right by the kitchen—a location probably not coveted by most. Unlike most, however, I love watching what goes on in kitchens. I had a perfect view of about 60% of the kitchen activities.

Orders were posted to a stainless steel set of cabinets using magnets. Master chef Alain Billard would go to one of the small refrigerators, take something out, and begin to work on it. The highest priced fixed-price menu item included lobster. So, more than once, he took out a container that held huge pieces of lobster, and he would cut them into chunks. He put them into a pre-heated pan, ladled in a ton of cultured butter, sprinkled in various herbs and spices, and then headed for the gas stove—the only part of the kitchen I couldn’t see.

Other times, he would pull out a large plastic container filled with giant sea scallops. A similar ceremony featuring a pre-heated pan, butter, and spices would ensue. Once, he dropped a scallop onto the floor! I watched carefully to see what he would do. He took it to the sink, rinsed it thoroughly, and returned it to the scallop vat, where presumably the reduction of flavor caused by rinsing would be remedied by close proximity to the other scallops.

I saw similar interactions with ducks, very lovely beef, chickens, and veal. Had I not already ordered, witnessing the show in the kitchen would have made choosing a main course exceedingly difficult.

There were at least three other men dressed in cooking whites, and at least three women similarly attired. The only man in the kitchen who wasn’t dressed completely in white was the master chef. He had on a white shirt and apron, but was wearing jeans. His shoes appeared to be white leather! None of the kitchen crew were wearing chef’s hats.

When it came time for our boeuf bourguignon, one of the assistants reached into a large strainer containing lots of freshly cooked egg noodles, and, using a pasta utensil, piled a bunch into a pre-heated porcelain bowl. The boeuf bourguignon was similarly dosed out. It was a mixture of beef, burgundy, carrots, mushrooms, and other stuff rendered anonymous through a process of long simmering. At about the same time, a wait staffer came out bearing two extremely hot plates. She quickly returned with the noodles and boeuf, and it was time to dig in. I confess that once our food arrived, I paid very little attention to the activities in the kitchen.

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