THE GREAT­EST VEG­E­TAR­IAN CHEF IN THE WORLD!

SIM­PLIC­ITY AND BAL­ANCE HAVE MADE ALAIN PASSARD THE UNCROWNED AM­BAS­SADOR FOR VEG­E­TAR­IAN CUI­SINE

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - BY RUPALI DEAN

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

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