Virtuoso chef … and virtual recipes

“Do you know the difference between me and all those celebrity chefs running the world?” With this provocative question, Marc Veyrat welcomed me to La Maison des Bois, his new restaurant that will open in December in Manigod, where his family is from.

I was trying to figure out how to answer this question diplomatically when he proclaimed with pride, “The difference is: This is MY place!”

The massive fireplace where the soup is kept warm

Indeed, many if not most celebrity chefs who have restaurants under their names rarely own the place itself. In this case, the chef not only owns the place, but he also supervised the construction without any appointed architect. In the middle of this typical Savoyard house made of stone, wood and antiques is a massive fireplace where the soup is kept hot.

A transparent flagstone overlooks the wine cellar, and you can even find a goat in the barn.

The food certainly complements and underscores this unique atmosphere. There are no waiters at the restaurant; Veyrat’s chefs are serving straight from the kitchen. Frog legs strewn on a moss bed were brought by Chef himself to the table.

“Frog legs and fresh polypod fern”

He invited me to dip them in a green sauce that tasted like licorice spread on tree bark. (This sauce is made of fresh polypod ferns collected from around his house.) Taking a sip of a 24-year-old Mondeuse (the main red grape from the region), he asked: “So, tell me what’s happening?” I could not believe the explosion of flavors in my mouth — the tannin of the wine mixing with the licorice taste of my dish. Then, a little bit naughty, proud and smiling, he told me just before going back to his kitchen, “That’s what I call the second taste! You understand now!”


Chef Marc Veyrat in the kitchen with one of his chefs 

I would need at least 15 posts to describe each dish, as they all have their own story, their own authenticity and their own link with the earth and the product. Like his famous “nouille virtuelle” (virtual pasta), which in fact is a pasta-like Beaufort, a flour-less dough suspended on a string that disappears while the stock is being poured; the famous egg cooked in clay with caraway and oxalis; or the dessert that uses both sides of the plate as a reminder of the time when nothing was wasted.

Bravo, Chef!