Éric Frechon is old-school French culinary royalty. You may have heard his name in connection with London’s Lanesborough Hotel where he is consultant chef to the one Michelin-starred Céleste restaurant, opened in 2015. But his heart belongs to Paris where he worked at Taillevent, La Tour d’Argent and Hotel de Crillon before heading up the kitchen of Le Bristol where he has held three Michelin stars since 2009 and where a starter of caviar with smoked haddock ratte potatoes fetches a cool €150.
The dish is included in this opulent tome as one of just 60 recipes. With a cover price of nearly fifty quid, that means you’re getting about half the usual amount for roughly twice the average price which cynics might say is business as usual for a three-star chef. But if you do shell out, be prepared to be delighted and frustrated by turns.
Benoît Linero’s dense, brooding images of Frechon’s dishes and favoured ingredients owe more to renaissance painting than modern food photography and are unquestionably breath-taking, but the decision not to show all the recipes as they are served in the restaurant is irksome, despite the inclusion of detailed plating instructions.
The recipes are inspiring (you’ll want to jump on the next Eurostar to Paris to eat the signature macaroni au gratin stuffed with truffle, artichoke and foie gras) but sometimes lack detail. If you want to know how Frechon makes truffle jus, chicken stock or vegetable nage then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The rather florid forward by French food critics François-Régis Gaudry and Emmanuel Rubin provides some insight into the cuisine and creative process of a three-star chef. Frechon describing how he took the French classic of hare à la royale and developed it into a soup is particularly fascinating but ultimately you are left wanting to know more. It’s galling to read that the pair had ‘many meandering conversations’ with Frechon that could have provided much needed introductions to the recipes or a longer biographical section.
With a number of cookbooks already to his name, this self-titled volume is meant to constitute Frechon’s ‘culinary manifesto’. At a skimpy 160 pages, it falls short of being that, but does paint a decent portrait of a French fine-dining chef at the top of his game.
(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)
Suitable for: Professional chefs
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars
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