It’s not everyday that you get to meet and learn from a 3 Star Michelin Chef; so I have to admit that I was a little nervous when I showed up at the Issaya Cooking Studio for the Masterclass with Chef Alain Passard of Restaurant L’Arpège in Paris, France. I’ve had the honour of learning from and working with a lot of fabulous chefs, during my career, but never one so highly decorated and Chef Passard.
Very shortly after my arrival, the butterflies turned into sheer excitement for the experience that was to come. Right before the class started, Chef Passard cheerfully came in and welcomed each attendee with the traditional European greeting of kissing us on each cheek. The warm reception put me right at ease, and I was now ready to soak up every ounce of wisdom this chef was about to bestow on us. The focus of the class, to my delight, was vegetables. Chef Passard is renowned for his couture approach to food, and for his creativity with vegetables. He began the class with a short lecture on his approach to food as a sustainable, organic, seasonally focused, and locally oriented chef. He told us how he equates food to fashion by using the notion of textiles and fabrics as the inspiration for his dishes. The seasonal, sustainable, organic, local part I totally understood, but food as fashion – I was interested to see this in action!
Chef Passard began with a demo of one of his famous desserts, a Rose Bouquet Tart. This beautiful creation is made by layering thin strips of apple and rhubarb, then rolling them up to resemble a rose. Each “rose” is then arranged in a low profile tart pan that has been lined with a very thin layer of unbaked puffed pastry. Once all the roses are arranged in the tart shell, creating a bouquet, then half a dragéed almond was placed in the centre of each rose. Next, in perfect French form, little pieces of grass fed butter were placed around the top of the tart prior to placing it in the oven. When the tart was done, it was dusted with powdered sugar and served with a delicious caramelised honey sauce. This tart was magically simple and wildly complex all at the same time. It was totally delicious. It was not too sweet or too heavy. ‘C’était magnifique’!
After this beauty, I was excited to see what Chef Passard would be cooking up next. The following dish was blanched white asparagus wrapped in strips of rhubarb. They were then sautéed in butter with a bit of salt and pepper. This lovely creation was again, so amazingly simple, yet intricate in its presentation. Let’s not forget that the flavour was completely balanced.
The next vegetable creation Chef Passard and his team prepared for us was a simple salad of steamed and raw seasonal vegetables with a sweet and sour dressing. A wide variety of seasonal vegetables such as snow peas, carrots, cauliflower, white and green asparagus, radishes and broccoli florets were arranged on a plate and dressed with a beautiful lemon/honey emulsion. The tart and sweetness of the sauce, perfectly complemented the natural flavours of the vegetables, without overpowering them. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted a better salad than this.
The final completely vegetable centric dish Chef Passard and his team prepared for us was stuffed green cabbage with Parmesan sauce. In this dish, blanched small green cabbage leaves were filled with a lovely mixture of sautéed seasonal vegetables. The stuffed cabbage leaves were then formed into a tightly wrapped ball and then heated gently in a water bath. Once the balls of stuffed cabbage were warm, they were served in a small bowl, topped with fresh tarragon leaves and set over a delicious Parmesan cream sauce.
In addition to these delightful vegetable centric dishes, Chef Passard prepared a delicious Brittany Lobster dish and a hot/cold egg custard dish both were wonderful, but my favourite dishes in this masterclass were his inventive fruit and vegetable plates. Chef Passard held true to his passion for creating unique and delectable bites where vegetables are the star rather than an afterthought. This class has helped ignite a new creativity for finding ways to make vegetables shine in my own dishes. I look forward to getting in to the kitchen after our upcoming summer adventure.
I’m so pleased to have found Issaya Cooking Studio, in time to participate in Chef Passard’s class. It was an honour to learn from him and experience his passion for vegetables. His friendly and open demeanour made for a delightful class. In addition, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet the other class members, who are all involved in the culinary world one way or another.
There were several Bangkok restaurateurs, a number of private chefs and a few executive chefs at Bangkok restaurants. I’m truly grateful to Chef Alain Passard and his marvellous staff for coming to Bangkok and sharing their love of food and cooking with all of us. I hope one day to dine at Restaurant L’Arpège in Paris.
Who knows what wonders Chef Passard will be cooking up then?