Memoires Gastronomique 1 – Fredy Girardet
The phone does not stop ringing at the hotel de Ville. It must be the first Monday of the month. This is the only day you can book a table at Fredy Girardet’s Restaurant Girardet fg in Crissier, not for the coming month but rather 3 months in advance. Their phone is ringing constantly mine, well to be exact my friend’s Kobi‘s auto dialer is working overtime and the line is engaged all the time. Luckily autodialing prevails and Kobi books us a table for two at Fg, the 80’s are about to end in a year or two and we’re about to meet the chef of the century and his creations for the first time.
Great meals or dishes leave us with memories that linger on for a long time beyond the event. A good meal at a perfect restaurant is an event, a lifetime event. This is surely the aspiration of every chef, cooking a meal for his guests. A meal to remember, but alas very few manage to attain this goal.
Contrary to the notion that the perfect wine as a whole, is relying on the imperfection of its parts: (https://wine4soul.com/2012/05/02/perfect-wine-and-the-paradox-of-perfection-12/), A perfect meal must be perfect in all its aspects: The products, cooking technique, balance within the dish, balance between the dishes on the menu, the decor, ambiance, service, wine list, general atmosphere, even light or the ability to see the food or read the menu and many more. But above all, it is the chef’s declaration of his own taste and preferences as they are expressed in each and every dish. No “almosts”, no trying to aim slightly low, to a mediocre common denominator taste, but rather a declaration: Welcome to my restaurant here you will be served (with the outmost of courtesy) my dishes, spiced the way I like them, presented the way I see them and Bon Appétit !
A perfect meal is a memory for life. Some people even have to talent to be able to relive the memory / experience as a real sensation of lingering heavenly taste. I for one carry these good memorable memories and they last a very long time, forever? I can only hope so.
I must say I had quite a few of these memorable culinary moments, that enriched the “essence” of my life, or as defined in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), JING:: 精; it is the Chinese word for “essence”, it is considered one of the Three Treasures (Sanbao) 三寶. Ancient Chinese sages said we are born with a fixed amount of Jing, consume Jing continuously in life; by everyday activities and when jing is completely consumed… we die. Jing can rarely be replenished, mainly by forms of stimulation such as meditation, Chi Gong, sex practices etc. I guess that being a part of an event I describe as a perfect meal is without a doubt one of the few Jing replenishers. It is good for the mind, body and soul, the perfect medicine.
Reminiscences of great meals are a great joy and to start my Gastronomic diary, a meal at Fredy Girardet fg Restaurant is the most fitting prelude.
Fredy Girardet was born on 17th November 1936 in Lausanne Switzerland. At the end of September 1996, Fredy Girardet, chef of the Century and owner of restaurant fg in Crissier, Switzerland, announced that he will retire from the Restaurant business at midnight on 30.11.96 as he turned 60, and the world of gastronomy Cried.
After 40 years of work in kitchens, twenty year of them at his own restaurant (at the hotel de Ville at the center of the village), he deserved a break but what about us????
As a child all Fredy wanted, was to become a professional football player. During a wine-buying tour in Burgundy for his father’s restaurant, a vintner took him to La Maison Troisgros in Roanne. Girardet describes the meal, his first visit at a renowned restaurant, as an almost “spiritual experience”, that convinced him to become a chef. When his father died unexpectedly at age 56, he took over the bistro. He started cooking in classic French cuisine style, it did not take long before he began to experiment with lighter and more innovative styles, joining forces with his contemporaries to develop the emerging nouvelle cuisine movement, no one knew than that he had decided almost from the start to “hang his apron” at the age of 60
Freddy Girardet is not just chef, the Gault Millau guide awarded him the Gault-Millau Cle d’Or and selected him Chef of the century with 19.5 points out of 20 the title of honor received together with Paul Bocuse and his good friend Joel Robuchon.
In my view after dining several times at the restaurant for Dinners, through the years he was the personification of the genius of culinary art. A combination of rare stimuli of all five senses in one creation, A DINNER. There isn’t an artist in any one of the arts who can successfully stimulate all of the senses, Freddie, Ladies & gentlemen did it every day for a small group of happy 84 Diners, 42 around noon for Lunch and then again 42 lucky ones for a Dinner Event, 84 happy winners of the chance to dine in the Artist’s atelier: the Restaurant at the Hotel de Ville in Crissier.
It was he who provided me, whenever I visited the restaurant with everything and anything I always expected from a meal. The meal always combined all the wonderful elements that make a meal at a three-star Restaurant an exciting event, an unforgettable experience. Every detail was perfect, starting from respect for the food product and their origin, details of the finished dish, the pure balance between tastes color, even position on the plate. Of course the restaurant’s location, décor and service, the staff attitude towards their guests, all “thrown into one neat careful “packet”.
The photos were taken in an era of analogue cameras and film/prints documentation (late 1980’s) most are slightly out of focus due to the effort to take the pictures without flash not to disturb the other diners. I have decided to include them as is.
Royale de blanc de poulette aux truffes a la crème de celeri pistachee
Imagine a consommé of chicken frothed with truffled celery cream that is so smooth clean and delicate. got it? That’s it! And with the array of wonderful breads and first class butter, who can complain?
The meal is very laid back, there’s a “wait” of 20 minutes between dishes, after a while you get the hang of it and see the reason behind the pace, calm down this is not an eatery, enter the experience of a meal event…and it works well we’re sipping on the wines, now about the wines we did not have the knowledge to order the right wines and let the sommelier guide us through the huge wine list/book for the white he picked the ultimate white wine for this meal:
Domaine Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Les Ruchottes 1986 At the time I thought what a wine, although this wine improved and reached its peak only at around 2000 -2003, it was crisp yet rich with exotic white & yellow fruit aromas, excellent concentration but the wood oakiness felt on the slightly strong side with little minerality and great fruit. powerful at its young age still delicate with a very long buttery finish. (I had this wine on many occasions later when the wood all blend in and it still kept it’s freshness and fruit)
Raie bouclee a l’agretto de Montevertine en verdure de poireaux
Reduction of sweet Italian vinegar (Agretto de vino santo) from Montevertine in Toscana with blanched young green leaks sauce. The touch is very delicate feels almost steamed done to perfection with a great balance between the fish and the leak complementing and flavoring each other, melting in your mouth on each bite…remember me…remember me! (We did).
A double fillets of thornback ray, this kite shape exquisite looking fish, is so delicate in the sea and on the plate.
Greque de Langoustine safranée aux legumes croquants
A single large langoustine forming a bridge over a delicate saffron vegetable and langoustine stock, clear and light, yellow orangey in color with an arrey of crispy squares of spring vegetables, each done to perfection and precision in cooking time. This is what we came here for I have never had 3 consecutive dishes so precise in execution and each projecting the essence of all its products, BRAVO! This is the ultimate glimpse into the secrets of genuine Haute / Nouvelle cuisine. This is the base of what we all eat today in great restaurants, Thank you Fredy.
Coquilles Saint-Jacques aux oignons nouveaux, jus beurré au thym citronné
A fresh Saint-Jacque steamed over onion infusion served in its shell with the Saint Jacque liquor reduction of butter lime & thyme frothed over.
Why do all these dishes fell as if they where steamed and not cooked in any other cooking method? I guess this is the secret, the touch that separates the premier league players, teams and managers from all the others, this guy scores goals (around his kitchen) every time he touches the ball (our meal products)
The white wine is all gone and it is time to choose our Red wine, unfortunately not knowing better at the time we opted for a Bordeaux and were proposed by our Maitre D’ the Château Sociando-Mallet 1987 ( he said “The 1986 is too powerful”) thankfully we opted for his advice and the wine which is according to Jancis Robinson in the list of this wine’s “Over-performing vintages” it was light, Smooth, Supple and approachable with cassis and light cedar notes. It gave us great pleasure throughout the next part of the meal. (nowadays I would opt for a Bourgogne wine but I was young than)
On the menu the next dish is the Cote de veau but our devoted Maitre D’ Louis Villeneuve saw that we came to sample as much as we could (who knows when we would be able to revisit this experience), so he kindly offered treat us with 2 separate meat dishes and allow us to share 2 different dishes off the menu which is extremely irregular for a menu degustation for two, it is the small gestures like that that enhance your dining experience at the palace of the KING. Almost a year later when we revisited the restaurant for another meal his utmost professionalism as a Maitre D’ (head waiter / “master of the establishment,” ), when while ordering our menu he pointed out: “You had this dish last year so I will change it for you to another dish off the menu” What a bliss, this guy saw us once, it is true we are full of enthusiasm and expectation allowing ourselves to be immersed in the meal experience, still he saw us once in his entire life and remembers minute details? Another piece in this puzzle of perfection. Thank you Louis Villeneuve the dedicated liaison between the kitchen and dining hall, who welcomed the guests, recommended wines, did the meat and poultry carving on a pedestal table, in front of the guest (an old custom he has reintroduced in Crissier), and was rightly awarded the “Welcome and Service Prize” by the International Academy of Gastronomy, the first time this prize was awarded to someone who is not a chef . I don’t know about you but I am impressed not surprised though. So, first we were offered (off our menu as I said):
Volaille de Bresse en cocotte aux morilles at asperges vertes.
The flesh of this chicken from Bresse is juicy full of delicate poultry flavors bursting in your mouth, mind you “chicken roast” is probably the most difficult dish to serve at a sophisticated restaurants but give Fredy a product and trust him to raise it to gastronomic heights after all this poultry posses a gamey depth of flavour, with fine, tender flesh and delicious clean-flowing fat together with the fresh morilles and asparagus which are in season this time of the year, the jus of the Bresse chicken is sublime.
The cocotte as you know is a shallow individual baking dish the rest of the secret lies with Fredy.
Côte de veau en casserole à la fricassee de béatilles at aux asperges.
A casserole of milk veal with a fricassee of “tidbits” mixture of inner organs: liver, sweetbreads, kidneys etc. in a casing of Vol-Au-vent or puff pastry shell.with asparagus and casseroled new potatoes, carved and served by the table to the last drop of the light sauce, delightful.
Than came a large selection of cheeses from the trolley (a very large selection I might add, which surprised the young cheese waiter attending to us) cheeses from the various appellations of France and Switzerland to “die” for with the breads they were perfect, enhanced I might add with a glass of Port Porto Barros 1963 and a glass of 1985 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes,.
Just before the Chariot de desserts with at least 18 different desserts of fruits, tarts, cakes and other delicious sweets on a trolley, we politely asked if we can share before sampling (most) of the desserts the famous Passion fruit soufflé, which was served to us with great pleasure I guess (it was on the house, looking now at the bill which I found amongst the menu and photos all of these contributed to enhancing the memories of this meal) from the deserts pears in white wine and vanilla (had it on a different occasion as white peach in vanilla) .
Now the soufflé as you see in the picture is served in a Porcelain Ramekin puffed up and fluffy, a slightly warm lightly sweetened passion fruit juice is poured in the center and you get to eat a passion fruit cloud that dissolves in your mouth both passionate and calming (I think I’m gonna try and make it for tomorrow’s New Years dinner (Jewish New Year) the recipe is in the book Cuisine Spontanee – Fredy Girardet (Papermac UK edition 1986) .
We were also served 3 types of sorbets: Banana, Raspberries and red grapefruit but the ice creams chocolate and sublime Vanilla and the two spoon serving method I encountered for the first time are still in my mind. We ended the meal with pettit fours and coffee and a glass of Armagnac XO, not noticing that we are the last guests in the room, guests were sitted along the walls and the center of the room was left for the service crew to function. (at 42 diners each sitting this is possible.) Mr. Villeneuve with the utmost politeness told us he took the liberty to order us a taxi so we don’t get stuck in Lausanne before the last train to Genève takes off around 1.00am, and so we left after a short visit to the already clean and polished kitchen.
Fredy entered the room after the last diner was served his main dish.His apparent shyness, his modesty (felt when he would enter the dinning room at the end of each service) was not expressed in his style of cooking, that was exciting, creative, full of imagination and always accentuated the flavor of the main product of this dish be it a vegetable, fruit, meat, poultry, fish, or seafood, each in its short season. He called it cuisine spontanée, I call it HEAVEN!
The secret of the approach was that sophistication was born out of simplicity. The approach was: minimum cooking, maximum flavor, minimum vanity, maximum service, minimum talk, maximum action, Maximum occupancy, all tables are booked months ahead 48- 49 weeks a year for lunch and dinner day in and day out. Max points 19.5-scoring and no compromise in quality.
The restaurant lies in the neutral zone at the border between Italy and France, in a small town. There were significant touches of French and Italian influence, Italian truffle risotto and frogs legs. An amazing combination of exquisite and refined cuisine of both worlds and all the ingenious touch won slightly reminiscent of greatness in the ultimate meeting of the three basic cuisines: French Italian and Chinese cooking.
These elements brought out the artistry of cooking to produce a meal that left every guest who dine on a table thinking as if he was the only guest at a special one off occasion that was not like it before and who knows if there will ever be such an experience any time after. A feeling that repeated itself on each and every visit.
He was rightfully awarded the: Gault&Millau golden key, agricultural Knight of Merit, an entry in the Petit Larousse, honored for outstanding achievements in cooking, Golden Form Award given by the International Food & Wine Travel Writers Association, cook of the century at the same time as Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon, international grand prix in the Art of Cooking, awarded by the International Academy of Gastronomy, plus 19.5 points awarded by Gault&Millau, “Memory and Gratitude” grand Prix, awarded by the International Academy of Gastronomy, Knight of the Legion of Honor, 3 stars in the first edition of the Michelin guide for Switzerland. So although I use too many superlatives and adjectives of awe and amazement they are all justified.
Thank you Fredy for opening the gates to the world of true cooking for me, my perspective was changed completely after visiting Crissier. Thank you Kobi for being persistent on the phone, for being a good companion throughout the years, on all our food trips, for having such a good taste And Thanks for the memories…