Change is in the air in Baumanière. Flagship of French gastronomy since 1945 with a long list of prestigious guests from Deng Xiao Ping to Harry Truman, Elizabeth II, the Shah of Iran not mentioning international artists like Picasso, the iconic old mas 2-star restaurant known as l’Oustau (at the foot of Les-Baux-de-Provence) reinvents itself with fresh thinking, new faces while sticking to its timeless authentic (Provence) spirit.
Jean-André Charial makes no secret of his ambition: regain the third Michelin-star his grandfather Raymond Thullier earned in 1956 and kept for 35 years. Captain of the ship and manager of today’s 20-ha property, he hired a new chef to execute the plan.
Jean-André Charial works to regain the third Michelin-star his grandfather Raymond Thullier earned in 1956. Pict/Elicendre/Wikipedia
Talented and already experienced, Glenn Viel quickly embraced the standards of the house. Don’t look for glitz or fuss. His cuisine is refined but straightforward. Scenography is well-though-out with local crafts (ceramics pottery, blown-glass items, wrought iron olive tree, stone mounds) but never overshadows the product itself which is seasonal and as close as possible to its natural aspect. “Dishes must be coherent with things that look and taste like what they are”. It’s all about selecting the best products, mastering cooking times.
The new maestro of the kitchen is partly sticking with the script. Classic dishes like Sea Bass in puff pastry, lamb roasted on a spit or Crêpe soufflée with Grand Marnier are still proposed (if not revisited) as well as the vegetable menu including the famous 3 mm homegrown green peas.
Brimming with ideas, Glenn Viel reinforces this green and healthy approach with a series of modern and innovative techniques. The chef has developed a method of seasoning by concentration: seasoning ingredients, lobster included, are grated to get powder which replace salt and exalt flavors.
He also created dressings based on animal feeding. “That sounded logical to me and could not fail”. Veal is served with Dulce de Leche and hay sauce, pork with corn juice, sea bream with winkle flavoring. Glenn Viel sense of creativity does stop here. He also set up tailored-made wooden driers on the terrace for tomatoes and propose a singular food and bread pairing. Seaweed, buckwheat, nut, sea urchin coral. It all depends on the dish. The restaurant baker will soon produce flour from an organic wheat field.
The restaurant is known for high-quality and rare vintage wines.
Respect for environment applies to vine growing too. Wine enthusiast just like his grandfather was, Jean-André Charial became a winemaker himself producing robust and aromatic Red and rosé wines The restaurant is known for high-quality and rare vintages. The cellar is not enough to store the 50,000 bottles family collection. Many of them are hidden in a former World War Two bomb shelter: a cave of wonders with stacks of wood and cardboard cases covered with dusts and spiderwebs. Petrus, Romanée-Conti, Saint-Emilion, Châteauneuf-du-Pape among other. The oldest vintage dates to 1870.
Veggies on the Cake
Surprisingly or not surprisingly, vegetables are also part of desserts. For Brandon Dehan, the pastry chef, it’s a signature issue and an obsession. “I have always thought putting veggies in pastries would work just fine as long as there is a right balance of flavors”. Talent is helpful. The other new face of l’Oustau was ranked among the Top 30 pastry chefs by Michelin.
Many of his preparations include parsnips, beets, celery or carrots mixed, for instance, with honey, vanilla and verbena. “It all depends on the season and how much I like the product.” When winter comes, he delights guests with citrus fruits served with mint ice-cream, yogurt mousse and cinnamon.
A long list of prestigious guests from Deng Xiao Ping to Harry Truman
The article was reproduced with permission from hi-europe.net.