Pierre Gagnaire is the French godfather of modernist avant garde cuisine, winning Michelin stars for his adventurous food in the early 80’s when Ferran Adria was still washing dishes for a living. Now, he presides over a world-wide empire that includes restaurants in Hong Kong, Las Vegas, and Dubai as well as his native France. But if you’re hoping for a definitive tome of the chef’s culinary oeuvre in the style of the Noma or el Bulli books, then you’re in for a disappointment.
Instead, to mark his 50th year in cooking, Gagnaire has produced his first family cookbook. The book’s 90 recipes are organised into 30, three course menus which are divided between not four, but five seasons. Gagnaire claims the fifth season is ‘that moment after winter has ended but before spring has truly begun’. Recipes in the ‘Almost Spring’ chapter designed to be cooked in March and April include a stunning sole terrine with leek (although perhaps more of a dish for the restaurant than the family table) and a more homely and traditional blanquette de veau.
As you might expect from the man who serves conger eel with green mango and grapefruit granita in his eponymous three star restaurant in Paris, dinner chez Gagnaire is no ordinary affair. Fresh oysters are garnished with sardine, ginger and slices of frozen banana. Yes, banana. Floating islands is re-imagined as starter of egg white quenelles in a coffee scented chestnut veloute, topped with mortadella; and financiers are flavoured with rocket chlorophyll and served as a dessert with mint syrup and vanilla ice cream.
Frustratingly, there are no introductions to the recipes so the reader is left none the wiser to where the inspiration for all this creativity comes from, or the derivation of the name of the spicy ‘6 rue de la Pepiniere sauce’ that’s served with roast beef and made from red and green peppers, strawberries, raspberries and beetroot among other things (Google the address and you’ll discover it’s a branch of M&S Food in Paris, but how the two are connected remains a mystery).
The lack of a ‘basics’ section means there are no recipes given for the stocks, jus, brioche and ice creams required to make some of the dishes, inferring that home cooks are expected to use ready made alternatives. But despite it’s shortcomings, cooks of all levels may well find inspiration lurking in the pages of this highly individual collection.
(This review first appeared in The Caterer magazine)
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and professionals
Cookbook Review rating: 3 stars
Buy this book
The Five Seasons Kitchen
£25 Grub Street