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Le Grand Véfour

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‪17 Rue Du Beaujolais‬75001 Paris
France
T‪+33 142965627‬

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Chef's personal info

Name: Guy Martin
Date of birth: Unknown
Books:
« Les recettes gourmandes de Guy Martin »French Editions du Chêne
« Un artiste au Grand Véfour »French Editions du Seuil
« Guy Martin, à la carte »French Editions Minerva
 

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EntreChefs.co.uk - Laurent Feneau
The rock and roll child

The rock and roll child

Guy Martin

After his modest career beginnings at a pizzeria in Annecy, Guy Martin rose through the ranks of haute cuisine to finally land In the gardens of the Palais-Royal and one of the most wonderful restaurants in France, Le Grand Véfour. Portrait of an autodidact.

Between an Interview and running back and forth from the stoves, Guy Martin is always alert, his head full of projects and despite his fifty years, he still looks like a child. A child who has curious eyes and a surprising capacity to be amazed. But in fact this is no surprise for someone who wanted to become a rock star… Rock and Roll is my culture. I grew up living and breathing it. I associate it with the idea of freedom and a way of saying no. This innovative and provocative side is very present in me". At 16 his "BEP" (cooking certificate) which he received was not a choice which he maturely thought-out, but more, simply a way for him to stay with musician friends. His first classes were learning to make pizzas. But he then began really working in the culinary business which brought him to work at the Château of Coudrée in 1981 on the Leman lake and then at the Château of Divonne. It was here that he earned his first star in 1985, and five years later, his second.
Then, in 1991, the Taittinger family offered him the prestigious job of Head Chef and Manager of Le Grand Véfour. But this nature-lover felt too much at home in his Divonne kitchen facing the Mont Blanc … sceptical, he hesitated, then, under the charm of this beautiful restaurant full of history and tucked within the gardens of the Palais Royal, he decided to leave his home region of the Savoie. "As I walked across the gardens of the Palais Royal, the gardeners had just mowed the lawn and I could smell this sense of renewal, like at home. There were flowers, lovers walking hand in hand and children playing in sandboxes. When I opened the door of Le Grand Véfour, I was taken aback by the beauty, the paintings, the mirrors and the soul of this restaurant which quickly convinced me to stay", remembers this Chef.

The story of a meeting
But Le Grand Véfour is perhaps the least advertised of the three-star restaurants in Paris. If the public are vaguely aware of this typically Parisian institution, it's also that this former Café de Chartres, founded in 1784 under the arches of the Palais Royal - has always managed to escape from the latest trends, the film projectors and the glitter and gold of celebrities … with its crystal chandeliers, its benches, its curtains, its china and famous wall paintings, this real historical monument is quite simply one of the oldest restaurants in Paris. It is also the restaurant with the most history as here, the Revolutionaries set up their headquarters during the Reign of Terror before Napoleon and Josephine came to eat there between two battles! So in fact, weren't Le Grand Véfour and Guy Martin made to meet each other? "My love for rock and roll and my highland origins have allowed me to choose my life and to remain outside all these fashions and trends" he confides.
Before him, Raymond Oliver managed this place for nearly 38 years. In memory of him, Guy Martin has kept one of the great dishes "le pigeon Prince Régnier III" which he has recently re-examined without changing. Guy Martin has been able to find the happy medium between a creative culinary experience open to flavours worldwide, and the historical interior which he uses as his setting. "My cooking is principally contemporary. It's a straightforward, respectful cooking, made with quality products. For me, cooking is like extending your hand to help someone" he explains.. His influences are diverse. He readily admits to referring to cookbooks from the 15th century as the poetry inspires him, but he is also inspired by cooks like André Guillot. "This Chef cites Horace in his kitchen and this is important for me as more than the culinary techniques themselves, it's the people behind them which I find the most intriguing".

Ghosts in the kitchen …
This Chef from Le Grand Véfour also admits being a great fan of Japanese cooking with its "search for the perfect product and this unique way of preparing fish". He continues by saying, "A good chef can only work with good products, and I need to know their background as they are all linked to people. Fishermen, butchers and cheese-makers all have their own way of working and when I use their products, I respect their work". It goes without saying that Guy Martin has a network of excellent suppliers. For his vegetables, he calls upon Didier Piles, a traditional cultivator from the Val de Loire who is also the supplier for some of the greatest names in the French culinary world such as: Ducasse, Passard, Robuchon, etc. This Chef from the Savoie pays a particular attention to his vegetables. "Vegetables are a tradition In my kitchen. This is partly due to my taste for Italian cooking. For example, I love to blending them with something sweet like these vegetables prepared with honey, directly taken from 16th century Italian cooking. We always have a vegetable-based dessert on our menu".
There is therefore often a historic element in Guy Martin's cooking and when tasting his most perfect creations, one feels there is a mysterious relationship between the Chef's imagination and the restaurant's personality. For him, these ghosts of Le Grand Véfour are very much present and "here, we are happy to be haunted and inspired by the souls of former clients …". But it certainly isn't for these clients that make Guy Martin actively move around his kitchen, as this starred Chef's cooking in the Palais Royal is very much alive! "I am always ready to listen to what clients think, which makes my dishes change from time to time, just like a mother who really wants to make her children happy".

Head in the clouds and feet on the ground
And all the clients and food critics can only praise him! Three stars with the Michelin in 2000, decorated with the Legion of Honour in 2003, this Chef is enjoying being served up all these distinctions. But all these honours haven't given him a big head. "Having three decorations is like driving a Formula 1 race-car, but instead of speaking of a race for the stars, I prefer to just call it a race for happiness". The most beautiful memories in his life are in fact very personal. "The birth of my children remains unforgettable for me whereas one of my favourite culinary memories is the morel mushrooms in cream sauce prepared by my mother", he confides. Guy Martin is first and foremost a simple, modest and discreet Chef. Like his home region of the Savoie, he strives without respite to keep his life a secret. But if you bring up the mountains or Japan, the conversation becomes animated and this hidden poet comes alive.
He very much likes to tell this anecdote about one of his long stays in the country of the rising sun. "A Japanese Chef who had a restaurant tucked away in the high mountains of Kyoto very much wanted to meet with me. Just for me he had prepared 18 dishes using the most noble regional products. After having shared this wonderful meal with him, he offered me a knife which he used everyday to go pick mushrooms in the surrounding forests". Guy Martin finishes by saying, "there are no meals without sharing something. At home, this desire to share is linked to the mountains, to climbing and hiking. To measure up to this nature gives you an idea of your real limits, that of merely a little person ….".

Chinese portrait
" If you were … "
- A quality: Faith in life
- A character flaw: Faith in life
- An animal: A black panther
- A country: Imaginary
- A piece of music: a work by Mozart
- A film: "Laurence of Arabia"
- A book: "Les mots" by Jean-Paul Sartre
- A famous woman: Mother Theresa
- A dish: Thin slices of truffle on toast
- A wine: Taittinger's Comtes de Champagnes 1998

EntreChefs.co.uk - Laurent Feneau

 

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