Alexis Gauthier is the classic chef, training with Alain Ducasse and other French legends, he's done the Michelin services and spent his life in kitchens surrounded by foie gras, butter, cream and all the other over indulgent ingredients we associate with classic French cuisine.
"It was all about ingredients, respecting the ingredients and getting the best possible taste, texture and flavor", says Gauthier. It's for all these reasons that it's so surprising when the chef goes on to explain that from now on he strongly thinks vegetables will begin to take centre stage in the fine dining world. In fact, he's so convinced of this, he's published a book called Vegetronic which focuses solely on the trend of fine dining with vegetables. However, before all the vegetarians of the world rejoice, these dishes are not necessarily safe for vegetarians to consume.
As the chef explains: "I do believe that the future is vegetables - At the moment we have this great asparagus and we're really trying to work and make it the star of the dish. Not necessarily for vegetarians, it has happened before but never the mainstream." "
The flavors from my French background are still there but I use them to cook a cauliflower or an apple or asparagus. I don't stop using meat and fish - I love their flavor - but I do think the way forward is to apply them to core ingredients such as vegetables... while using the flavors of foie gras, roasted meats and meat jus. There is a huge element of space for creativity with this."
The seeds of the idea were placed after the chef discovered that his constant tasting of ultra rich foods had given him a fatty liver - an almost karmic slap in the face from geese all over the world. It was this that led him to focus more on a healthy diet, something that subsequently influenced his becoming one of the first fine dining chefs to offer calorie counts for the dishes at his Gauthier Soho restaurant. "Without thinking I was over indulging, I was diagnosed with a fatty liver, which is a common problem for chefs, I wasn't obese and this was a wake up call, it changed the way I looked at dishes when I made my menus." A shock to the system and something that has led him down the path of researching non-vegetarian veg menus.
Vegetables roasted in the rich sources of meats, pairings of apples and foie gras. He's not turning away from the classic, ingredient driven French approach, he's just allowing vegetables to sit right at the centre of the plate - something Rene Redzepi discussed with Fine Dining Lovers back in 2012 when we interviewed him before The World's 50 Best Restaurants List was announced.
Is 2013 the year? Will this be the time for meats to finally accompany veg? It's been the other way round for so long but Gauthier certainly thinks it's changing: "I see vegetable based fine dining getting really big, now most of the gastronomic restaurants offer vegetable based menus but I don't want vegetarians to have the exclusivity of vegetables - I want everyone to have it. Roasted carrots in lamb jus, gratin of leeks with thyme parmesan and chicken jus. I know that that's the future and I have no doubts about it".
A man of his word, Gauthier will be presenting his Vegetronic concept with two special stands at this year's Taste of London food festival. The first will include courses that explain his idea further such as Fat Duck Foie Gras - a burger of foie gras and apple - a dish Gauthier describes as a beautiful fake hamburger that tastes delicious. The chef will also prepare a select menu for guests at the S.Pellegrino restaurant - here he has worked to pair a selection of dishes perfectly with the sparkle of S.Pellegrino water, as he notes: "For this we've been very interested in trying to match the water with food. We're actually cooking roasted cherries in Riesling - these beautiful red cherries cooked in wine work well with the sparkling element. You have the intensity of the cherry, the acidic taste of the Riesling and then this finish of the water." He will present three dishes, another including a tomato stuffed with herbs and cooked in a beef jus, each time using the water to provide the final finish to the palette.
Guests can buy tickets to Dine with Gauthier Soho for S.Pellegrino at meals spread out throughout the four day festival which begins today and ends June 23rd. Click here for more news on what to expect from Taste of London 2013 and here to meet the Pizza Pilgrims who will be wowing guests with their pizza tossing skills at the Sanpellegrino Fruit Beverage Orangery where everyone can sit and enjoy a slice of pizza and a can of Sanpellegrino Fruit Beverage. As in previous years, S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna will be hosting a wine/water/food pairing masterclass by sommelier Neil Philips.