THE GREATEST VEGETARIAN CHEF IN THE WORLD!
SIMPLICITY AND BALANCE HAVE MADE ALAIN PASSARD THE UNCROWNED AMBASSADOR FOR VEGETARIAN CUISINE
It’s a little disconcerting to meet a world-famous three Michelin star French chef when he’s dressed in just pyjamas and slippers. It’s even more bewildering when you know that
Alain Passard, this particular chef, perhaps more than any other, has been responsible for a revolution in world cuisine. You’d expect him to be more… imposing. Perhaps even a little pompous. But here he is in his pyjamas and slippers in India, checking out the produce at Tijara Organic Farm, Rajasthan.
Passard, once a master rôtisseur, celebrated for three decades as the purveyor of the most divinely tender slow-cooked meats, is now almost as much a farmer as a chef. In 2001, he took red meat off his menu and to focus on vegetables and fruits instead. That was a huge risk to take at least business-wise, at a time when economies were booming, food was extravagant, and health concerns minimal.
But now, 16-odd years later, Passard is practically the world ambassador of international vegetarian cuisine. Though this position wasn’t something he set out to acquire.
“At the time, I felt I had learned everything I could from meat, and I needed to take a risk and discover something new,” says Passard about his journey as a chef.
Today, his muchrevered art deco Paris restaurant, L’Arpège, the name is a tribute to his musician father and his favourite unhurried pastime, the saxophone, has become an icon of creativity with vegetables. Thanks to him, vegetables now take centre stage across the globe, not only for his accent on them, but also for his promise to nurture them with paramount respect.
Passard’s menu is mainly veggie-centric, with a dash of seafood and chicken, but no red meat at all. “There is an allure in vegetable cuisine that is completely transparent,” Passard explains. His prudently tended vegetables are transported into Paris every day, right in time for lunch and dinner at L’Arpège. Never once do they see the crisper drawer of a refrigerator, which possibly explains their penetrating flavours. And once these vegetables are over for the season, they are over. Other veggies come in instead.
LIFE AU NATURAL
For Passard, life revolves around his farms and his kitchen. Wanting total control over his ingredients, he purchased his own farms in 2002, about 138 miles away from Paris.
“We have fantastic asparagus, peas and baby vegetables, and leaves like sorrel from our gardens at the moment,” he says. These are just a few of the 500 fantastic varieties of vegetables he grows by means of natural practices. He fosters connections among plants and animals to boost vigorous soil for sustainability.
His focus is on natural
“BY RETURNING TO SEASONALITY, SOMETHING UNIQUE WILL HAPPEN. WHENEVER YOU’LL GO TO A RESTAURANT, YOU’LL WITNESS THE SINGULARITY OF A CHEF’S WORK, JUST LIKE A GOOD PLAY OR AN OPERA.”
practices. Instead of using machines on his farms, for instance, he uses animals. And when it comes to pest control, chemicals have been replaced with natural pest control methods. A good example is their use pond frogs to eat leaf-ravenous bugs.
“We are at the commencement of everything we are yet to live,” says Passard. “I think we will return to seasonality, and that will increase the place of cooking in everyone’s lives. Because of that, whenever you will go
NATURAL INDULGENCE Alain Passard patented the Bouquet De Roses apple tart, a dish that honours the flower and the fruit