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When Paris’ famed L’Hotel, which was home to Oscar Wilde in 1900, changed hands last year, the management hired master decorator Jacques Garcia to revamp the dining room and overhauled the kitchen staff, bringing in Philippe Belissent from the three-star restaurant Ledoyen.
“The goal is to revitalize the restaurant,” says the
28-year-old Belissent, whose “revisited classic” cooking is already a magnet for neighborhood gallery owners.
The new chef recruited most of his staff from Ledoyen, where he worked for three years before taking over L’Hotel’s kitchen. At Ledoyen, he created a rather youthful ambience with a 24-year-old second in command, a
23-year-old pastry chef and a 24-year-old maître d’.
“There is great communication among us and we’re all very motivated,” says the chef of his brigade.
Indeed, Belissent puts a lot of energy into his cuisine. His menu is short, but always changing according to the market and the season. This fall, the selections betray his fondness for mushrooms. There is also smoked purée of eggplant and honey, langoustines wrapped in homemade lasagna noodles, served with mushroom bouillon and truffle, and pan-fried veal with sweetbreads, accompanied by summer truffle macaroni.
However, his signature dish — roasted cod with mashed potatoes, chives and mussel juice — remains a classic “with a sparkle of modernism,” says Belissent, who believes that mastering the basics is essential before getting into emulsions and siphons.
That said, he refuses to stay holed up in his kitchen. He gets inspiration from reading, traveling and tasting his fellow chefs’ cooking.
“Last time I ate Jean-François Piège’s cuisine, I could not contain a tear,” admits Belissent. “Everything was just so perfect.”