Alain Passard (1956– ), a native of Brittany and an artist at his core, discovered early on that cuisine was largely performance. Training and developing his skills and credentials under such icons as Alain Senderens in his kitchen at L’Archestrate, Passard absorbed the importance of colors, shapes, aromas, and textures as vital supporting elements of flavor.
The best materials for pursuing those qualities, he discovered, were to be found in the plant kingdom. Although not entirely vegetarian, he uses the characteristics of flora to develop his own gastronomic vocabulary and visual palate to bring his dishes to full flower.
In 1986, Passard bought L’Archastrate from Senderens and changed its name to L’Arpège (“arpeggio”—to honor his own passion for music). The emphasis was a rich, vegetable-dominated menu. To supply his restaurant with what he needed and to retain full control of his ingredients, he established biodynamic kitchen gardens in various French regions, giving him an enviable ability to have the best—in the right season and when it was needed.
Besides having an adoration and aptitude for music and cuisine, Passard had also experimented with visual art since his youth, no doubt allowing that aptitude to influence his plating technique and flair. The types of paper collages that are a defining characteristic of this book reflect that long fascination.
This is a cookbook elegantly and simply presented in a way only a truly experienced chef can achieve. The instructions are concise and easy to follow but come from the mind of one accustomed to working in a restaurant kitchen, concerned both with the finesse of presentation and the necessity of economy—”Trim the carrots into the shape of little bells as illustrated in the collage...Keep the left-over pieces of carrot for crudites, stock or a mirepoix.”
No dish is unattainable in the home kitchen, and Passard does us the favor of highlighting peak season for each dish and a suitable beverage to accompany it. In the summer months you might try three kinds of tomatoes roasted with eggplant caviar and a Languedoc red; autumn calls for pears and black radish with tapenade and a single malt Scotch.
In French. Hardcover. Author's illustrations throughout.
Nach Waxman wrote the description above when we offered an extremely scarce English-language edition of this book.