Cyberchef Books
You are in:  Home > Cyberchef > Books   •  Archives   •  send page to a friend

Headline Feed
Email to a friend




By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 12 JULY 2006Les Légumes de Joël ! is a sumptuous book about the gifted market gardener Joël Thiébault describing his life, his produce, and his customers who include many of the top French chefs. The book also contains some 36 recipes, from these super-chefs as well as from personal friends, where one of his vegetables has been prepared in an original and striking way.

So what is so special about these herbs and veggies? Why is he different from anyone else? For starters, his carrots are yellow not orange and his beetroots are orange not purple.  His tomatoes are not all red but green, while his broccoli is, you've guessed, not green but a brilliant shade of violet! Freaky? No way, because the flavour and freshness of all he produces is unbelievable. Until you have eaten one of his tomatoes, for example, the case may be that you have never really tasted a tomato before. And that applies to most of what he produces; a staggering 1600 varieties of vegetables and herbs.

When I first met him, he was waggling a pretty sage-green plant under the nose of one of his customers at his market stall*. Her guess that it belonged to a long-lost member of the mint family wasn't far off the mark as it turned out to be pineapple mint, so called because of the delicate soft vanilla-yellow etchings along the edges of each leaf.

Joel Thiébault at the market at Alma Marceau in Paris
Photo: Patricia Boccadoro  

"I am insatiably curious", Thiébault told me  at a later meeting. "The moment I hear about something new I can't resist trying to grow it while at the same time, I adore cultivating vegetables which have gone out of fashion. I enjoy discovering plants which were grown way back when.  Last year alone I grew 50 or 60 different kinds of tomatoes, which, administratively speaking was way too many. But I love the colour, flavour and scent of each variety such as Green Zebra which has a perfume all of its own, particularly at the end of a sunny day.  Some varieties are matt, others brilliant, and each has a unique texture. Finally, you can't ignore the actual sensation of the fruit in your mouth which can be very sensual, and differs according to the variety."

"The problem I have", he continued, "is my tendency to treat every vegetable I produce in the same way, and there simply aren't  enough hours in the day to do all I want."

No two days are ever the same for this man who not only works on the land at Carrières -sur-Seine, to the West of Paris, as well as dealing with all the administration that his business entails, but also goes to market and sells his produce in the capital himself, one of the remaining market gardeners to do so.

"My day changes with the seasons, "he said. "This morning I was up at 4 a.m. to sort out  deliveries and bills before drawing up the days requirements for the rest of my team and after that I had to oversee that all the orders for restaurants and private customers were put in the truck, produce which can only be picked and loaded at the last minute before we leave for Paris."

(At this point my own curiosity was aroused and I asked him which chefs had ordered from him that day. "Pierre Gagnaire**, William Ledeuil***, Helen Darroze****", he began, "but I don't work with everyone who is in the book!")

By 6 30 a.m. he was setting up his stall on the Avenue du Président -Wilson where you will find only  fresh vegetables in season, basically  root vegetables in winter and leafy ones in summer, and where he will happily  advise  customers on the best ways to store, prepare, and cook his produce.

"I enjoy the direct contact with people", he said. "And it's obvious, isn't it, that the best thing to do after shopping is to take everything home and put it in a cool place as quickly as possible, particularly all leafy foods which should be wrapped in cling film and kept at 2°C. 

In spite of being a lover of good food, Thiébault does not cook himself, although the tip he gave me to prepare spinach was excellent. He told me to wash the spinach thoroughly, drying each leaf before putting it in a large frying pan or wok with a knob of butter and stirring it gently for no more than three minutes. A clove of garlic stuck to your spoon does no harm either. His recipe for a rhubarb tart was equally as delicious. He suggested macerating small chunks of rhubarb with sugar and fresh ginger overnight. The following day he beat 2 soup spoons of thick fresh cream with 75 grams of sugar, 3 soup spoons of flour and an egg plus an extra yolk to make a smooth cream. He poured the lot into a pastry base, arranging the rhubarb on top before baking for 45 minutes in a hot oven. But what can't be quibbled with is the quality of the fruit. The secret is to use young sticks of rhubarb as quickly as possible after picking as nothing replaces the freshness of a product. 
The book, which is not strictly speaking a cookery book in the usual sense, also benefits from some 250 beautiful photographs by Grant Symon, the photographer who won the World Cookbooks Award in 2004 for the best photography in a cookery book. His pictures are extraordinary. For the moment, Les Légumes de Joel is only available in French, published by Flammarion, but is so visually lovely that anyone interested shouldn't hesitate to order it immediately!   

Les Légumes de Joël !
By Lyndsay and Patrick Mikanowski
Photographs: Grant Symon
176 pages
Editions Flammarion (Paris, 24 October 2005)
Language: French
ISBN: 2082014665
EAN: 9782082014663
45.00 Euros  

* The Market at Alma Marceau, avenue du Président Wilson. Wednesdays and Saturdays.

** Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire 
6, rue Balzac
74008 Paris
Tel: (33)  01 58 36 12 50
(Count 310 euros per person , no wine, for dinner, 100 euro special lunch menu, no wine)

*** Ze Kitchen Galerie
4, rue des Grands-Augustins
75006 Paris 
Tel: (33) 01 44 32 00 33
(Count 34 euros per person, all inclusive for lunch)

**** Hélène Darroze
4, rue d'Assas
75006 Paris
Tel: (33) 01 42 22 00 11
(Count 200 euros per person for dinner, no wine)

[ Feedback | Home ]

If you value this page, please send it to a friend.

Copyright © 2005 Euromedia Group, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.