OFF Food


OFF food, moi jamais 😉 Well Monday it was off to OFF. Think Glastonbury for chefs and foodists. The two day festival took place in Deauville (Paris’s 21st arrondissement, many Parisians have second homes there). Omnivore, the organisiers brought together some of the crème de la crème of the gastronomic scene aswell as some young up and coming talent.

Unfortunately the train out of Paris was late so I missed out on Pierre Hermé (did catch him signing books at La Cocotte‘s stand) but I wasn’t dissapointed starting off with Alexandre Bourdas of Sa.Qua.Na. I really liked his way of finely slicing a potato, blanching it and cooking it in butter and duck fat (I nearly had a heart attack just watching) and then layering the slices and rolling it up (see picture). Bourdas explained that by using this technique the potato would be al dente. The potato was accompanied with scallops, parsley oil and a chicken offal based sauce.

In between chefs I nipped out for a coffee and some herbs. There was a herb stand with different herbs à la mode to sample. Shiso pourpre, daikon cress, rock chives…The lovely salesman gave me a tiny sample of a sechuan button to finish off with. What he forgot to mention was that eating the thing is like having a mini electric shock. Stick your tongue on a 9V battery for the pleasure of it, why don’t you… Apparently it’s a palate cleanser. I’ll keep to my regular mint sorbet, thank you.


Anyway, back in the Auditorium it was Laurent Chareau of le Chat turn to impress the crowd. He certainly did that with his ‘puffer’ fish (pictured above). Dipped in eggwhite and then rolled in non-cooked prawn cracker chips (white coating on outside) and deep fried. Served with a passionfruit, lemon, tabasco, olive oil and soya sauce. Wrap that up in some newspaper with a side of fat chips and you’ld have an interesting take on fish and chips.


Bertrand, the kid (sorry but he’s only 26, runs Agapè in the 17th) kicked off one of the trends for the day, jerusalem artichokes. A vegetable which kept on making appearances. Jerusalem artichoke purée topped with pan fried whiting, truffles and hazelnuts.


Paco Morales, another young genius (Spanish) played on the qualities of raw food with a tomato juice topped with an assortment colourful vegetables (he had special tweezers to arrange them, none of that Jamie Oliver ‘chuck it on’ technique). Simple, minimalist, pure…like his other dish. Fish rolled in potato starch. The potato starch batter once deep fried gave the fish an almost ‘ice’ like finish. Served on a bed of pancetta and spring onion lentils.


Now this dish I got to taste: Sea urchin with a coffee oil infused cream. According to Emmanuel Renaut the flavours enhance each other. A little too rich for my taste.

Finally it was off to lunch at the Restoff. Menu by Fabrice Biasiolo from Auberge en Gascogne. By then I could have eaten a horse after sitting through all those demonstrations.


Everything was delicious except the rice wrap with roquette, parma ham and something fishy (inspired by the south-west of France) was a little rubbery to eat. I had to skip the foie gras. Sorry, too many traumatising food shoots with the stuff. No photo of dessert, it was too yummy (chocolate & salted butter caramel crème).

After lunch I rolled back into the auditorium and listened to Jordi Butron of Espai sucre explain how pâtisserie can be served as a starter, main and dessert. Katsumi Ischida did a live slaughter of an eel. Stick a nail through it’s eye to keep it still, chop it’s head off and then slice into filets. The head kept on moving while that was happening…not for the faint hearted.


One of the highlights of the afternoon was Mads Reflund (pictured left), part of the Danish pack of chefs revolutionising the culinary scandanavian scene. He takes his inspiration from nature: using local and seasonal produce. I loved his idea of “burnt vegetable fields” (something which is done after Autumn harvest in Denmark). Some raw, some cooked seasonal vegetables (mainly root vegetables) with edible soil (a mix of ground nuts, sesame, brown sugar)  then smoked under a glass dome.


He then hurtled on with several other dishes at a fast food speed.

mad_2Winter leeks, bone marrow, sprouted onions (which he sprouted himself, takes 3 weeks), pear, watercress topped off with lump fish roe (a sign of spring) with a brown butter cream. All components which represent the end of winter and beginning of spring in Denmark.


Unfortunately I can’t remember the dessert (by then I think I had reached a ‘higher state of mind’ from all that conceptual food talk). I then had to dash back to Paris. I missed out on Franck Ceruti and Petter Nilsson (who I had seen the year before and I had eaten at his restaurant La Gazzetta, very yum). The heavyweights Heston Blummenthal and Ferran Adrià were on the next day but that was not on the cards for me. I was out on an culinary product innovation day, a little less haute cuisine but none the less interesting.


One Response

  1. […] in Normandy checking out the new generation chefs and some heavyweights too. Take a look at Khookie for the whole […]

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