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Gault Millau Awards: Switzerland On The Podium
Photo Bernard Python

Gault Millau Awards: Switzerland On The Podium

Benoit Violier is 'Chef of the Year' 2013. His legendary Hotel De Ville in Crissier, Lausanne, has just hosted the exclusive event that awards Swiss excellence

By FDL on

Monday, October 8th 2012. The Hotel De Ville de Crissier is just 3 miles (5km) from Lausanne, Switzerland. Its restaurant is the perfect location for the prestigious award event, organized by the influential restaurant guide Gault Millau, founded in the '60.

The star of the day is Benoît Violier, who won the most prestigious title: "Chef Of The Year". After learning from the most passionate chefs of all time, 2012 has been the beginning of a new chapter in his career and his life at the restaurant of this hotel. In April he became the new Chef Patron of the restaurant, after 16 years of working closely with his mentor Philippe Rochat (both in the first picture below, by Bernard Python).

Together with his team he conceived a completely new idea for the restaurant, centred on what he called “a new sensorial experience”. Visibly moved, the chef shared the prize with his wife, a smiling Madame Violier. She was instrumental in the new version of the restaurant and helps her husband by managing and hosting. She often says that she’s not only married to a husband, she has also married a vocation.

“What we live today is extraordinary, this prize has been a great surprise for me”, Violier says. Then he looks around and adds: “Moreover I’ve been surprised and very happy to see all these great chefs coming here to celebrate this special day.” Among the famous faces of haute cuisine in attendance were Andreas Caminada, André Jaeger, Horst Pierroz, Bernard Ravet. “Now I feel even more under pressure” Violier says ”but this is an incentive to work harder and harder. I’ll never stop learning”.

“I’m very proud of him, he’s one of the best chefs I’ve ever met”, says his mentor Philippe Rochat, who was awarded with a special prize for his career at the beginning of the event. Rochat and Frédy Girardet (in the picture below, by Bernard Python), that founded the hotel's restaurant in 1953 with Benjamin Girardet, represent the tradition and the story of the Hotel De Ville and they received a tribute at the beginning of the ceremony.

Other awards given out during the event were: the “Award for Rising Chef in German, French, and Ticinese part of Switzerland” went to Heiko Nieder (The Restaurant, The Dolder Grand, Zurich), David Tarnowski (Le Montagne, Chardonne VD) and Andrea Cingari (Da Enzo, Ponte Brolla TI). Then it was time for the “Discovery Awards in German and French part of Switzerland” which went to Beat Walker and Marco Helbling (Gasthaus im Feld, Gurtnellen Dorf UR) and Georges Lelièvre (Auberge de L’Union, Arzier, AD).

Andrea Caminada’s partner at Schloss Schauenstein, Oliver Friedrich won the “Sommelier of the year” (a prize sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna) while Martin Dalsass became the “CigarMan of The Year” because of the special lounge for smokers that he created in his restaurant (Talvo by Dalsass, St-Moritz-Champfèr GR). After his success in Asia, Jonas A. Shürmann (Mandarin Oriental, Hongkong) wins the “Abroad Star” Award.

After an aperitif, chefs, guests and journalist were ready lunch. Entering the dining room everybody who visited the Hotel De Ville in the past can see that the establishment has been completely renovated in perfect accordance with Violier’s values. The intimacy of a home blends with the elegance of a top restaurant. (“It’s not only about cooking a dish, it’s also about a tasting environment”, this is the philosophy.)

The fullness of the flavors, as well as the sense of balance, dominate each dish of the menu starting from the “Solen”, marinated seafood and Atlantic clams ,Spicy Sauce made with Collio grape vinegar and the consommé de foie gras (Zephyr of Avelines duck foie gras). That was followed by Cotinière sole flavoured with Menton candied lemon.

Then the traditional dish King hare “Aristide Couteaux, 1898” Way brought all the guests back to the past: it’s a very old recipe that owes its name to Luis XIV. It seems that this special way of cooking the hare made the meat so tender that it could be eaten even without using the teeth (the French king, as many may know, had some “dental” problems). To sum it up, it was one of the best meals in the world with some of the most exclusive ingredients available. “Delicate and refined”, as Rochat said while commenting the menu.

To close off sweetly this gastronomic excursion it’s time for Succulent and crunchy Boskoop apple cookies ‘refreshed’ with Calvados, along with a dessert selection (in the following picture, by Bernard Python).

All the pictures featured in the article are by photographer Bernard Python

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