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ZE KITCHEN GALERIE

Les Couleurs du Gout: La Cuisine de William Ledeuil
by William Ledeuil
Editions du Seuil   

 

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 18 NOVEMBER 2005—To most people, tomatoes are round, red and shiny. They come in crates at the supermarket, in cans labelled "plums", or disguised as ketchup in bottles. And yet, as William Ledeuil, the talented young chef at "Ze Kitchen Galerie", a delicious French restaurant on the left bank of Paris, commented, there are between 250 to 300 varieties of this versatile vegetable / fruit around. Recipes on how to deal with them are only a part of his beautiful cookery book, Les Couleurs du Gout , published by Seuil last year.

Ledeuil told me that his supplier, Joel Thiebault, worked with seventy to eighty different varieties of tomato, and that he himself frequently uses Green Zebra, coloured a soft sage green with bright emerald stripes, as well as Orange Queen, which he finds in every hue of red and orange. He added that varieties such as Coeur de Boeuf, Jambe de Banane, Cornue, Ananas, Blanche, as well as the whole family of cherry tomatoes, not to mention cocktail ones, were now found relatively easily. Tomatoes, he added, came in a bewildering selection of yellows, greens, black, purple and white, and in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Ledeuil became interested in cooking, as well as in the descendance of the homely tomato, quite by accident. Brought up in the country near the town of Sancerre, a strange sequence of events led him to Paris where he eventually began studying at the Ecole Superior de la Cuisine Francaise under the guidance of Guy Savoy.

"I'd always enjoyed cooking and suddenly it became a passion", he told me. "Provided you always follow the basic rules, preparing food is like a game with nature. I play with the colours and perfumes around me. Curiosity pushes me on, and it becomes a journey of discovery. And fortunately, I have a public who are only too happy to follow me. My food, whether vegetables, duck, fish or meat, is basically classic French cooking with a twist of South-East Asia."


William Ledeuil: Brochettes de Saint-Jacques, condiment fenouil-raifort-citronelle
from Les Couleurs du Gout, Editions du Seuil 
Photo: Didier Gaillard

The Colours of Taste, is indeed based upon ingredients encountered during his travels in Thailand, Japan and Vietnam; spices, herbs and roots hitherto unknown to him, which underline and bring out the hidden flavours in dishes.

"Cooking is a joy, and a way of expressing myself", he explained. "I've something to say, and my combinations of colours and presentation all have their own message. What matters to me is the ingredient itself, the flavour, freshness and its natural colour, plus its own shape and the form of the dish it is served in, invariably white. Painting and architecture are of the utmost importance too."

His restaurant, high, bright and modern, with a glassed-round kitchen where you can watch the seven young cooks preparing your meal, is in fact a place where food meets art. Culinary creation is displayed alongside works by Daniel Humair, who also designed The Kitchen, and other artists including Jacques Bosser, Thibaut de Reimpré and Tony Soulié. It is, as the name implies, an art gallery as well as a kitchen, a place where originality and pleasure come together, for make no mistake, the food found here is as succulent and as exquisite as any restaurant or palace in France. Only instead of a bill topping 200 euros a head, the lunch-time menu, with the same standard of food as is served at night, will set you back a mere 33 euros, including the wine and coffee. How does he do it?

Well, his food is neither pretentious nor showy, but seasonal and fresh. No strawberries at Christmas, nor hefty beef stew in May. And as for snails with white truffles or pig's head and caviar, please look elsewhere. As far as service goes, it is both efficient and friendly, without the encumbrance of a half-dozen waiters fussing around watching you swallow your food.*

"I use seasonal products, and love vegetables and fruit", he explained," so the hardest part was to build up my chain of suppliers. "I'm intransigent on quality and freshness and want only the best of everything. I know exactly what I need before buying, and when I prepare a dish, it's all worked out in my head. So when the deliveries arrive early morning, they must be exactly what I asked for, and the best possible quality. Then I assemble them, and I have to see on the plate exactly what I imagined. I rely heavily on large amounts of fruit and vegetables, and the delay between the time they are picked, and the time they reach the kitchen must be reduced to the minimum. Even though I have complete trust in my suppliers, we double check the quality of our produce each morning.

His book, like his restaurant is worth its weight in gold! Attractively presented, the first page orange, the second green, and yet the next, burgundy coloured, it's a pleasure to read, while the wonderful photographs by Didier Gaillard, make it a feast for the eyes. It has, too, the unusual distinction of chapters headed "Ginger", "Turmeric", "Coconut Milk", where recipes using these products have been grouped together. How many times have I come across citronelle, without knowing what to do with it? Now I know, "Cappuccino fraise-citronelle, émulsion vanille".** Coming to dinner?

For the adventurous cook, there is even a chapter on "Wasibi", and for those who don't cook at all, its a plea, in this era of fast-food, to simply say, stop. Use your imagination, have fun, and use these recipes as a jumping ground to your own imagination just once in a while. There are no secret skills to master, soufflés to puff over, nor sauces to stir. The rules are simple; fresh, fine quality produce treated with respect and a twist of fantasy.

 

* At the restaurant of the fabled hotel of the Cala de Volpe in Sardinia , where they tried to charge 120 euros for a plate of greasy linguine atop with a few sad shrimps, frozen they tasted too, I was attended by no less than nine waiters, and grandly presented with three starched table napkins when each slipped on the floor.

It all rather depends upon whether you want to eat your table napkin or William Ledeuil's Brochettes de Saint-Jacques, condiment fenouil-raifort-citronelle. I chose the latter!

"Ze Kitchen Galerie"
4, rue des Grands-Augustins. A 5 minute walk from Notre-Dame
75005 Paris
Tel. (33) 01 44 32 00 32

Les Couleurs du Gout: La Cuisine de William Ledeuil is available for the moment only in French at:
Editions du Seuil
27, rue Jacob
75006 Paris
ISBN : 2020671964 (October 2004)
EUR 24
or from Amazon.fr.

Click here for the recipe:  Cappuccino fraise-citronelle, émulsion vanille (Strawberry-Citronelle Soup with vanilla sauce) by William Ledeuil.

Patricia Boccadoro is a senior editor at Culturekiosque.com



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