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New Wave Chefs in Paris

January 16, 2020

From character-packed bistros to Michelin-starred gastrodomes, Paris is rightly regarded as one of the world’s culinary capitals. But while the city’s chefs are applauded for their focus on technique and ingredients, they aren't often feted for their originality. Venture beyond the Hemingway cliches and starched fine diners to find a new wave of rebel chefs taking the city by storm from their kitchens.

When Le Meurice’s Michelin-starred patisserie titan Cédric Grolet (crowned World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2018) opened his second bakery Cédric Grolet Opéra last November, his position among the culinary vanguard was sealed. This young-gun chef’s reinvention of French desserts has earned him a loyal following from the style press and celebrities (Karlie Kloss is a fan), with sweet-toothed diners seeking out his delicate, hyper-real fruity confections that are as ‘grammable as they are delicious. 

If you were looking for a vegetarian meal in Paris a few years ago, you’d have been laughed out of town, but Alain Passard changed that with the complete overhaul of his much-feted, triple-Michelin opus Arpège. Investing in three plots of biodynamic farmland, Passard not only removed red meat from his menu, but made it a mostly meat-free paean to the humble legume. Produce that has “never seen the inside of a refrigerator” is brought in daily to create all manner culinary magic, attracting more than just hungry vegetarians to the table.

Growing worldwide environmental concern and a consensus towards plant-based living finally took root in the French capital when health-conscious brothers David and Adrien Valentin opened the city’s first ever vegan restaurant, Le Potager de Charlotte. But they didn’t just stop at your average garden kale-and-tofu-rice-bowls, this dynamic duo breaks the boundaries of vegan cooking with inventive presentation, transforming unexpected ingredients into gourmet delights. To make life even harder for themselves, most dishes are gluten-free too.

The historic and quintessentially Parisian setting of Pavillon Ledoyen belies the modern, cutting-edge food you’ll find on the plate. Locavore ingredients are given the three-Michelin-starred treatment by Yannick Alléno who pushes classic French techniques to the limit with dishes like homemade Fontainebleau cheese with viognier jelly and fermented fir buds, or wafer-thin Wagyu beef and mushroom millefeuille. 

From kibbeh to kebabs, Middle-Eastern fare has long been a fast-food fixture in France; chefs Assaf Granit (of London’s The Palomar fame) and Uni Navo, however, have taken this once underrated cuisine to dizzying new heights with sleek, chic Israeli eatery, Balagan. A weekly changing small-plate menu of elevated Jerusalem classics, with an aromatic dash of Moroccan spice, is offset by a cleverly curated wine list, showcasing pours from Israel, Lebanon, and Spain.

It doesn’t get more rebellious the dining scene than chucking a Michelin inspector out the door, but Basque bad boy Stéphane Jégo did just that at Chez l'Ami Jean. Proclaiming that "they have too many boxes to tick", Jègo bites his thumb at the Michelin-star acclaim that would’ve almost certainly come his way, to play around with whatever arrives fresh from the market, then pile it high on plates fit for seriously hearty appetites. Don’t forgo the superb riz au lait (rice pudding) for dessert. Make food, not war!

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