Since 2012, the creative duo behind Steinbeisser investigates the importance of the tableware choice in the perception of the dining experience organizing Experimental Gastronomy, a design and dining project bringing together famous chefs and artists to create unique culinary experiences.
During these dinners, entirely vegan and organic menus are served using unique cutlery and tableware created for the occasion by designers and artists, celebrating experimentation for new ways to enjoy the food.
Last June, Steinbeisser's Experimental Gastronomy invited Alexandre Gauthier, one of the most high-profile French chefs of his generation. With two Michelin stars under his belt and named '2016 chef of the year' by Gault&Millau, the young chef's style is described as "contemporary cuisine of French origin and descent, free from convictions and preconceptions." After taking over his father's restaurant in 2003, the young chef redesigned the space to make La Grenouillère (in Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, north-east France).
Fine Dining Lovers asked chef Gauthier to tell us more about the culinary event and the inspiration behind it. We also selected some shots of the amazing dishes served during the dinner, enjoy (click on the images to enlarge)!
A New Gastronomic Challenge
As demonstrated by his involvement as one of the chefs cooking up the four-course lunch at the COP21 in 2015, Alexandre Gauthier is clearly also concerned with environmental issues.
" When the event organiser, Martin Kullik, asked me to take part, I said yes right away" admits the chef. "I was also set the tough challenge of putting together a vegan menu, which is not at all what I focus on in my everyday work at La Grenouillère. It compelled me to venture outside my comfort zone and question my convictions. I started to come up with the dishes about six to eight months before the big day and jotted down ideas in my little notebook. Three weeks before the event, we finally had a trial run of the mise en place to check that everything was feasible. This proved to be a great exercise for me and my team!"
Art is Served
To add to the pressure of doing a vegan menu, the French chef had to think about the presentation of his dishes too. "As I couldn't work with my own, I used bespoke tableware designed by 10 artists who made the plates, dishes and cutlery out of special materials like clay, glass and wood," which made for an even more unique experience.
Each artist designed a piece "at random", explains Alexandre Gauthier. “This completely rewrote the traditional concept of place settings, as all the tableware was different, so you could end up with one plate between four people, whilst others had to eat with their hands; there were some very industrial-style designs and other pieces that were much more plant and nature-inspired; it was quite extraordinary! It was a shame, though, that the artists weren't there to see it."
A Vegetal Organic Menu
When mapping out his menu, Alexandre Gauthier selected plants and vegetables from organic farms and biodynamic agriculture only. "As it would have been impossible to cook the menu from start to finish on site, we did some preparation at La Grenouillère using products from our usual suppliers," explains the chef. "But once we got to the venue, we went to an amazing farm located 10 km from Amsterdam and found quite an array of interesting herbs there."
The highly creative chef decided to serve guests an oxalis flower stem rolled in caper powder, "a curious dish with distinctive tartness," adds Alexandre Gauthier, as well as a "ball of potatoes with chervil flower, chives, lichen and soft cashew nuts, served with hazelnut oil and a fleur de sel cashew nut purée," delicately arranged on a paper plate designed by Myung Urso.
For the main course, the La Grenouillère chef opted for a "grilled green asparagus over a tarragon-flavoured grilled broccoli purée" served on a leaf-shaped plate by Aino Nebel, and a "lettuce heart that we grilled and then baked in the oven to keep it crunchy, served with an almond and sorrel leaf cream to add sweetness to everything. Visually, it looked like petals arranged on a pillow," which was designed by Tomasz Niedziolka.
For dessert, one of Alexandre Gauthier's dishes included a "raspberry encased in sage gel”, served in an exquisite twig spoon designed by Sharon Adams.
The menu certainly won over guests that day, who were then able to bid for the bespoke tableware at auction.
Where next for Alexandre Gauthier? "Dinner at the Palais de Tokyo, this coming 17 October, which we're working on already!"
All the images ©Marion Luttenberger