Ask Eugénie Béziat her favourite dishes and he or she’ll let you know it’s a coin-toss between Hen Yassa and a plate of al-dente pasta.
It’s much less of a stretch than it sounds if one considers that the 40-year-old French chef now on the helm of the Ritz Paris’ Espadon restaurant spent the primary 18 years of her life in Central and Western Africa, the place her household of Italian and Spanish descent has been established for generations.
“With this new Espadon, our objective is awakening the senses with new flavors, spices and condiments as a result of this delicacies is about feelings and journey,” says the lodge’s common supervisor Laurent Herschbach. “Within the area of a dinner, you’re transported into one other universe.”
By way of a five- or eight-course tasting menu, Béziat certainly takes diners on a journey that meanders from her birthplace in Libreville, Gabon, via the heady heights of Michelin-starred gastronomy with out lacking a beat.
Alongside the best way are components resembling brede mafane, a flowering herb reputed for its tingling mouthfeel; kororima seed paying homage to inexperienced cardamom’s lemony aspects; brousse cheese from Corsica, and a number of greens grown within the Île-de-France area round Paris.
Oh, and there’s even what’s in season within the lodge’s rooftop herb backyard on Place Vendôme.
Although many of those merchandise hail come from the 4 corners of the world and he or she is steeped in flavors skilled in Central and Western Africa, don’t use the phrase fusion to explain what she’s doing at Espadon.
“That is French gastronomic delicacies. Private experiences, this previous in Africa are a supply of inspiration that lead me to work on flavors, spices, technical approaches,” she says.
Take the poultry dish that is without doubt one of the stars of the menu. “My father, who was born in Senegal, would typically make Hen Yassa when his greatest mates got here spherical for dinner,” Béziat recollects.
To make this “extremely addictive” standard simmered dish in sauce with as many recipes as there are households, what one wants is rooster, onion and a contact of acidity introduced on by lemon and vinegar, she explains.
Béziat looked for the final farmer elevating Houdan chickens, a standard French breed thought-about one of many most interesting within the nineteenth century however that was close to deserted.
Subsequent, the onion — “a meals so easy and standard that’s in almost each delicacies on the planet,” she remarks. Those she makes use of are grown by the lodge in its kitchen backyard, situated 25 kilometers away from Paris within the Versailles plains and which provides all of the produce used on the lodge.
Matured to lose its sulfuric notes, the onion is then cooked in a hand-sculpted crust of purple clay that evokes the soil of the South of France however the iron-rich laterite one in Africa to develop “very suave, very tender balsamic notes.”
Additional gastronomic legerdemain entails roasting the rooster carcasses earlier than turning them into shiny jus and a citrus butter, amongst different steps. The ultimate impression is bolstered by a bite-sized tartlet with a stuffing of herbs and the legs of the roasted pullets.
One other hanging instance is the “lobster, cassava, bissap” dish, the place hibiscus flower infusion she “used to gobble after college as ice lollies purchased from road distributors” turns into the important thing ingredient in a sauce that completes a Brittany lobster cooked on the barbecue and served with cassava semolina.
A “mischievous bisque” provides extra of that gourmand, moreish be aware that characterizes what she serves, be it a reinterpretation of the Bloody Mary cocktail as an amuse-bouche on a spoon, or the crunchy chocolate soufflé courtesy of the Ritz’s head pastry chef François Perret.
The daughter of epicurean mother and father, Béziat was “at all times fascinated by this artwork of alchemy” of bringing flavors collectively however didn’t initially set her cap for gastronomy.
Born within the Gabonese capital, the long run chef did her main schooling in Pointe-Noir in Congo, earlier than returning to Libreville. For her closing years of highschool, she lived Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, the place she handed her literary baccalaureate earlier than heading to the southern French metropolis of Toulouse at age 18 to pursue a level in utilized overseas languages.
Have been it not for a dinner on the bistronomic restaurant of Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze, she might need continued on her literary observe.
That dinner was “a gustative shock” for her 20-year-old self, she recollects, describing the acidity of a Granny Smith apple contrasting with the iodized taste of an oyster as “a revelation” that made her understand this was her calling.
Exit English and German literature in favor of a two-year course on hospitality and catering. Then she minimize her tooth via successive long-term experiences at Michelin-starred eating places together with Les Prés d’Eugénie with Michel Guérard, Michel Sarran’s eponymous institution and La Roya in Corsica, with Yann Le Scavarec.
The yr 2018 noticed her go at it solo, given carte blanche to revamp the normal French fare of La Flibuste, a family-owned restaurant in Villeneuve Loubet, a city bordering the Mediterranean Sea that’s coincidentally the hometown of culinary legend Auguste Escoffier.
“Once I’m in search of inspiration, I’m going deep inside myself, in my recollections. I typically say that if you need to go additional in cooking, it’s an actual introspection,” says the chef, who says her delicacies hinges on recollections of her childhood and adolescence as a lot because the gastronomic French traditions transmitted by the cooks she labored below.
The strategy paid off: inside 18 months, Béziat had a Michelin star — and was on the Ritz Paris’ radar.
A meal at La Flibuste was “a real discovery, a French gastronomic delicacies with Mediterranean and African inspirations, open on the world by way of strategies, tradition and produce,” recollects Herschbach.
Her fearless strategy and exact execution slotted in with the palace lodge’s need for “a younger formidable profile, with an genuine persona, assured and wanting to create up to date delicacies in a powerful setting,” provided that the lodge needed to strategy this new period of Espadon as a gap in its personal proper, reasonably than a reopening.
“It has its historical past — a ravishing heritage that we needed to protect within the title — however one of many values of our home is to always reinvent ourselves,” Herschbach says.
One factor the lodge’s by no means transferring on from is founder César Ritz’s need to make visitors really feel proper at house in his institution, continues the manager. And that’s one thing Béziat additionally needed.
At present’s 30-seat Espadon was imagined as “a eating room the place visitors shall be proper at house, with an open kitchen behind a glass panel,” based on the lodge govt.
Early into her tenure, made official in April 2022, the restaurant’s longstanding location within the Vendôme wing of the lodge felt like a mismatch for her imaginative and prescient of “a extra intimate setting.”
The restaurant returned to its authentic house on the Rue Cambon facet, the place it was first created on 1956, with the addition of a 2,000-square-foot out of doors eating space when the climate permits. Diners can now see Béziat and 10-strong kitchen brigade working within the open kitchen, separated solely by huge windowpanes.
Additionally offering a satisfyingly home really feel are plush carpets and velvet seats, a Bohemian crystal chandelier and the Astier de Villatte tableware, particularly developed with the Parisian house items model.
However Herschbach stresses that the spirit of the Ritz was additionally about creating shock and “occupied with tomorrow’s visitor” are paramount to the Ritz Paris imaginative and prescient of hospitality.
One such shock is beverage pairings. There’s in fact wines, a problem brilliantly undertaken by head sommelier Florian Guilloteau, who matched Béziat’s chiseled recipes with the likes of a 2014 Schoenenbourg Grand Cru classic from the Alsace area, a 2007 Nuits-Saint-Georges from the Domaine Faiveley or Zacapa XO particular reserve rhum to match with an oyster-based dish, the poultry or the chocolate soufflé.
However there would be the risk to pattern a pairing with drinks — alcoholic and never — starting from spirits to infused waters, and a totally alcohol-free proposal nonetheless below improvement by Béziat, Guilloteau and Ritz Bar head barman Romain de Courcy.
But, whereas Béziat is the photo voltaic presence round which the brand new period of Espadon revolves, she is adamant that her delicacies wouldn’t occur with out the numerous fingers and hearts concerned within the journey.
Take the collaborator-of-sorts whose spirit adopted her from Villeneuve Loubet: Escoffier.
“This ardour he had for flowers actually spoke to me,” she says, declaring the vestibule draped in sculpted rhubarb leaves. “Do you know he wrote a e-book about sculpted wax flowers?”
She too has a ardour for vegetation, evidenced in her liberal use of essences, spices and every kind of fragrant vegetation. So essential are they to Béziat’s repertoire that the very first thing she requested was for her private favourite, brede mafane, to be planted within the Ritz’s vegetable patch.
Every of her recipes is a journey and as she writes within the introduction to the Espadon’s menu, “in our travels, we’ll cross paths with those that reside for and by their terroir, a supply of infinite inspiration.”
Which may be the true star ingredient in her delicacies. “Behind all these merchandise, there’s the necessity to join — with out that, there’s nothing, no soul,” she says. “I couldn’t work that manner.”
Cue the menu’s acknowledgements to “Laurent, the final farmer of Houdan’s stunning and uncommon star pullets, raised only for [Espadon],” “Monsieur Duperier, duck farmer” or “Delphyne, who at all times brings [her] vanilla from Madagascar.”
“Hand in hand,” Béziat concludes.