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Michelin star chefs bring French food to Beirut

Chef Noguier opened French Gastronomic Week at Al Dente.

BEIRUT: The Albergo Hotel welcomes seven Michelin star chefs this week to participate in the 10th annual French Gastronomic Week and share the flavors of France with Beirutis at the hotel’s Al Dente restaurant.

The event began Monday night, featuring the culinary stylings of chef Jean-Jacques Noguier of Bossey, France where his restaurant Le Ferme de l’Hospital has had the pleasure of welcoming many a Lebanese customer.

“This year, in my restaurant I made a welcome sign in the Lebanese language,” said Noguier, who is one of the original chefs to become involved with French Gastronomic Week, on his 10th visit to Beirut for the festival.

“It’s seven days, seven chefs, starting Monday and finishing Sunday. It’s different chefs but the only common point is that they are all Michelin star chefs,” explained Jihane Khairallah, general manager of the Albergo Hotel.

The seven chefs – from the Savoie, Rhone-Alpes region, various parts of southern France and Paris – have each prepared specialityset menus using ingredients flown in from their home cities and villages.

“The chefs we have are from different regions in France, so it’s different tastes, different feelings,” Khairallah continued. “They bring their own food so that here in Lebanon we can taste something that is really authentic.”

For example, chef Patrice Hardy of La Truffe Noir in Neuilly Sur Seine, who is cooking Friday night, is known for his use of black truffle and will present a menu inspired by the ingredient. And chef Jean-Pierre Jacob, who cooked Tuesday, flew in fish from Le Bourget du Lac, where his restaurant, Le Bateau Ivre, is located.

“[My village] is well known for its lake, so I’ve brought fish from this lake which is very typical to the cuisine from [the region]. It’s classical fish and it has to be worked in a humble way to promote the natural flavor of the fish,” described Jacob, who has been participating in French Gastronomic Week for seven years.

Jacob’s protégé, chef Julien Machet, who was invited for the first time for the festival, is also proud to share his cuisines with Beirut.

“I like the recipes that really are very simple, just with a small glimpse of originality,” he said. “It’s like the soup of green peas to which I add roseberry and it’s the combination of the salty and the sweet that kills the acidity of the dish.”

Machet will be cooking Wednesday followed by chef Jean-Chrisophe of Manufacture in Issy les Moulineaux Thursday and chef Hardy Friday. The weekend will round out the festival with chef Eric Sapet Saturday of La Petite Maison de Cucuron in southern France and chef Jacques Pourcel Sunday who, in addition to his restaurant Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, is also behind French and Asian inspired restaurant Yazhou in Beirut, just steps from the Albergo.

The variety of regions and ingredients from France are a hallmark of French Gastronomic Week according to Khairallah, but the real emphasis is not on Michelin stars but the passion of these chefs for their food.

“They’re here because they really want people to enjoy their ‘terroir,’ so their part of the world, their part of France. They’re very close to their dishes and they do it with love, to make everybody share their love for the cuisine,” he said.

As chef Nogiuer remarked when asked why he became a chef, for him sharing food with the world is simply innate. “The story is too short, I was born with it,” he said.

French Gastronomic Week runs until Nov. 6. For reservations call 01202440 or 01339797

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 02, 2011, on page 12.

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