Pierre Gagnaire is inspired by Jean-Marc Boyer's intense dedication to terroir.
Fearless, daring, and profoundly inventive, Pierre Gagnaire has been called the world’s most inspiring chef thanks to such creations as garlic ravioli in truffle sauce with spring vegetables, rocket juices with tarragon, Bordeaux cannelés, thin-sliced veal kidney with turmeric-tinted grapefruit-and-Guinness sour essence, and a cocotte of veal sweetbreads over fresh hay. Yes, that is just one dish. A Gagnaire course is a showcase for an uncompromising vision that surprises, delights, and sometimes confounds diners.
Unconventional though he may be, Gagnaire began his culinary career in the most traditional way in 1965, when he became an apprentice at Paul Bocuse near Lyon, France. He later opened his own restaurants in nearby Saint-Etienne, earning two Michelin stars at one and three at the other. In 1996, he moved to Paris and opened Pierre Gagnaire, which earned three stars and brought him worldwide acclaim. He never stopped pushing the limits of French cuisine, collaborating with his friend, the chemist Hervé This, to pioneer molecular gastronomy and, along the way, create the now-ubiquitous 65-degree egg. Today, Gagnaire presides over 14 restaurants on four continents, including Twist at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, his only location in the United States. He is also the author of six cookbooks and a revered figure in the culinary world who has set the example for many of today’s cutting-edge chefs.
One might expect Gagnaire, when asked to name the world’s most promising chef, to choose another glamorous wizard of molecular gastronomy; instead, however, he singled out a chef who works in a village in the South of France and specializes in preparing dishes that are closely tied to the land. Gagnaire met Jean-Marc Boyer when Boyer was working at L’Ambroisie, Bernard Pacaud’s Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris, and the newcomer later trained for a brief period at Pierre Gagnaire. Even after just a few days, Boyer made an indelible impression on the master chef.
Boyer had initially moved to Paris to work at Dodin-Bouffant with Jacques Manière, the champion of la cuisine à la vapeur, a technique of cooking with steam that emphasizes freshness and simplicity. But in 2003, after 18 years in the city, he returned to Lastours, in his native region, and opened his own restaurant: a six-table establishment in an old textile factory overlooking the Orbiel River called Le Puits du Trésor. As always, Gagnaire offered support. “I’ll never forget,” Boyer says, “all the times he called me to say, ‘Hang in there, Jean-Marc, and continue to work.’ ”
At Le Puits du Trésor, guests are offered a choice of three menus that Boyer, 46, constructs using the vegetables, fish, fowl, and meat he sources himself that day. Surpassing the concept of mere seasonal fare, Boyer crafts a true cuisine du jour. Though Le Puits earned a Michelin star in 2007, Boyer still works in relative obscurity, receiving little press even in France. A rare profile in Le Figaro offered a glimpse: Cooking at home at 3 am, Boyer concocted a dish of juniper-roasted pigeon with morels, prunes, and turnips steamed in the fowl’s jus. With childlike excitement, Boyer woke up his wife, shouting, “Nathalie—you’ve got to taste this!”
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