By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 14 DECEMBER 2010 With the recent outbreak of transport
strikes and the ensuing traffic jams aggravated by shortages of petrol, it
had to be something special to lure me into the centre of Paris. Moreover,
with the havoc caused by demonstrations in the main streets of the
capital coupled with random blockages of key roads by slow-moving
heavy-weight lorries, not to mention terrorist threats hanging over Europe
deterring more than one, it had to be something really very special.
It was. Undeterred, I drove into the French capital to have lunch at Ze
Kitchen Galerie, a meal which was followed by a meeting with William
Ledeuil, one of the most important chefs in France today. Since our last
conversation over five years ago, Ledeuil has not only made his
restaurant, now boasting a Michelin star, into one of the most
sought-after places in Paris to eat, but he has also opened a second
equally popular restaurant, the Kitchen Galerie Bis, known as the K.G.B.,
been designated 'Chef of the year' by the prestigious food guide,
Gault and Millau, and brought out a long-awaited new cook
La Cuisine de William Ledeuil (Albin Michel, 144 pages) is a
beautiful book to buy for oneself or to offer as a gift, a book to read
and to spend a happy week-end with, assembling for friends one of the
very many delicious and surprisingly accessible recipes illustrated
As becomes obvious as one reads through the recipes, the 46-year-old
chef has invented a style. By banishing butter, flour, and cream, hitherto
regarded as staples of traditional French cuisine, and by
replacing mundane seasonings and salt by ginger, lemongrass, wasabi
and a whole range of fresh, pungent herbs, Ledeuil is changing the
face of French food, for French his culinary delights most certainly
"My cooking has evolved in the years since Les Couleurs du
Gout (Ed. du Seuil, 2004) was published," Ledeuil told me.
"While my inspiration remains the same, with importance being given to
colour, perfumes and texture, I've traveled and learned much more. I've
gained in experience and have access to a greater number of ingredients
than before. There is still a mixture of cultures, mainly from Thailand,
Japan and Vietnam, but my seasonings are more balanced, measured to the
very gram, and there's a greater variety of citrus fruit than previously,
which," he added," is in the process of developing since my meeting with
the specialist greengrocer, Michel Bachès, three years ago. Based in
Montpellier, he's introduced me to such delicacies as Cedrats main de
Bouddha, and caviar lemons."
"And as well as my association with Joel Thibault, I also work with the
market gardener, Asafumi Yamashita who grows kabu turnips, kabodjian
miniature pumpkins, and a whole range of unusual herbs. I'm always
searching for new concepts and tastes, and love introducing new products,
being a pioneer of sorts."
To a query as to whether he didn't
think the recipes too complicated for the amateur cook, he replied that
many of them were in fact very straightforward, and I received explicit
instructions on how to assemble Tarama, condiment
mangue-curcuma-citronelle. I was assured that anyone who wanted could
produce his Gaspacho de tomates coeur de boeuf à la citronelle,
whereas his Tartares de crevette-mangue verte was child's play.
Re-reading the recipes carefully, I could not help but agree with him.
Tartares de crevette-mangue
© La Cuisine de William Ledeuil
Kitchen Galerie. Aux éditions Albin Michel
In addition to the delicious, unique recipes, beautifully photographed
by Eric Laignel, Ledeuil has given very many useful tips from that squeeze
of lemon into fresh apple juice to preserve the colour to replacing
elusive fresh curcuma by fresh ginger with a little saffron.
"What matters," the chef continued, "is the quality of the ingredients
which must be the best you can find, plus the care in their preparation.
The beetroots in my recipe are steamed and the cooking impeccably timed.
If you follow some basic rules, then cooking becomes a game."
The K.G.B., Kitchen Galerie Bis, is the name of the bright, lively,
contemporary restaurant opened in September 2009 by Ledeuil and his
long-time friend and associate, 34-year-old Cédric Maréchal, manager of Ze
Kitchen Galerie. Situated just a few doors away from the first, it is just
as elegant, relaxed and unpretentious as the former, but is neither an
annex nor a bistro, but a place for trying out new ideas with a different
Inspired by Ledeuil's meanderings not only in Asia and the Middle East,
but also from ideas gleaned in Spain and Italy, five or six multi-coloured
small dishes, zors-d'oeuvres, which change each day, are served,
each more perfumed and more succulent than the next. There are crostinis
with tomatoes, chorizo, enoki and manchego, marinated sea bream with green
mango, basil and ginger, avocado soup with green apple and crab, to name
but three, while the main course could be a fragrant, steaming casserole
as opposed to Ze Kitchen Galerie which specializes in dishes à la
plancha, a simple, savoury way of grilling meat and fish on a hot,
"Streetfood, whether in Japan or Spain, has often a pejorative image",
explained the chef, "and I also wanted to get away from the age-old
concept of celery remoulade, mushrooms à la greque or
grated carrots as a starter."
He then went on to make the startling admission that he did not really
like eating carrots or celery, nor fennel nor leeks, while the smell of a
steak fried in butter quite turned his stomach over! And while loving
butter on his slice of morning toast, he detests it in a sauce for the
blandness it gives.
"When cooking", William Ledeuil told me, "I'm searching for the
intensity and pungency of the taste. Condiments, including fresh
lemongrass and ginger, which complement my food are of the utmost
importance. I noticed, in my travels, that seasoning depends not on the
addition of salt and pepper, but rather on the correct balance of the
ingredients. Moreover, most vegetables and fruit possess their own natural
sugar and acidity. Why add more?"
"I'm trying to develop a cuisine which is constantly changing and
moving forward yet dependant on the produce available that day; where
every mouthful brings new and piquant sensations. I also enjoy when
and what to buy, which thus allows me to enjoy myself while keeping prices
accessible to a wide public."
For the moment, La Cuisine de William Ledeuil: Ze kitchen
galerie is only available in French. Here are two recipes:
Tarama, condiment mangue-curcuma-citronelle
1 or 2 crab's legs
3 round red radishes
3 stalks of coriander,
Chinese if possible
2 soup spoons of olive oil
200 grams (1 cup) of tarama, white if possible
10 centiliters (3.4
ounces) of milk
Juice of 2 lemons
1 stalk lemongrass
1 yellow mango, Thai if possible
Juice of 3 lemons
turmeric, if possible
2 stalks of lemongrass
3 soup spoons of olive
Season crab with the olive oil, coriander and celery salt. Peel away
the hard outer leaves of the lemongrass and chop heart finely. Mix milk,
tarama, lemongrass, celery salt, then add the lemon juice and mix again.
Peel the turmeric, chop the tender heart of the lemongrass, peel and slice
mango and blend together Add olive oil and filter. Refrigerate.
To assemble: place a helping of Tarama in each bowl, add the crab and
cover with thin slices of radish. Dot condiment attractively around the
Gaspacho de tomates de boeuf à la citronelle
600 grams (3 cups) of ripe tomatoes, Coeur de Boeuf if possible
stalks of lemongrass
6 centiliters (2 ounces) of rice vinegar
soup spoons of olive oil
Blend all ingredients together, filter and chill; Add a chopped garnish
of 2 small green, or yellow tomatoes, 2 small white or mild red onions, 3
springs of basil, Thai if possible, 2 soup spoons of olive oil.
Recommended only with tomatoes in season.
La Cuisine de William Ledeuil: Ze kitchen galerie
William Ledeuil and François-Régis Gaudry
Photographs by Eric
Paperback: 144 pages
éditions Albin Michel, Paris (October 2010)
Ze Kitchen Galerie
4, rue des Grands
Tel: (33) 1 44 32 00 32
25, rue des Grands Augustins
Tel: (33) 1 46 33 6685
Based in Paris, Patricia Boccadoro is a culture critic and
senior editor at Culturekiosque. She last wrote on Dining Out in
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