So here’s a kitchen designer/lover-of-all-things-kitchen walking into the home of this great Michelin-starred chef. And I smile as I see his home kitchen. The cabinets and layout don’t look like a dream kitchen. The first thing I note is the cooktop in the peninsula with a ventilation hood that appears to be able of doing the job. The next thing I take in is the rack above the sink with all his important tools hanging. Easy to see and find; only a step away from the cooktop. I like. Reminds me of Julia Child’s kitchen. And then I notice the industrial soap dispensers just below. This is clearly the home of a restaurant person.
I then focus on the cooktop. He has electric hobs. I’m very surprised. I shouldn’t be because hobs are much more common in Europe than in the States but I just thought he’d have gas which is so much easier to control quickly. The grill sitting next to the cooktop is great. You can work efficiently with an indoor grill. And the expresso machine lets me know what a great home this is with friends and laughter and love.
The oven is just a standard appliance. I don’t know what I thought it would be but there it is. Simple. Clearly it’s been put at the right height for easy access. And I like the cabinet doors on top that lift up. Very good!
Bernard takes a look at his chalk board where he’s written out the menu and thinks. Finally we begin. He’s done days of prep work to get us to the final day of preparing this meal. The lobster stock, shrimp, diced tomatoes and meats are all ready to use. I’m so curious about his lobster stock.
We start. The three Amuse Bouches are the first things to assemble. We start with the tomato. He dices the anchovies which will go on top while I fill the glasses with the tomato. I’m trying to do my best and make it all look perfect and appetizing.
For the next Amuse Bouche he hands me his home-made tool. It’s a cork on the end of a long-handled pick. It allows me to pack down the glass nicely. Genius. But, then, of course a chef of this calibre would come up with a tool or two.
After I’ve plunged, he skillfully pipes on the top part. Everything here is made with the abundance of cream which helps to make French cuisine so tasty.
Our last Amuse Bouche is more than just assembly work. Bernard starts to work. He’s chopping chives. I’m in heaven. He’s made my day! Why, you ask. Because, the way him uses his knife and how he cuts the chives, is the way I work. I feel like I’ve been awarded a gold medal.
The shrimp, the chives, the cream get mixed.
The chopped peanuts go on top. The warmed lobster stock is poured on. It’s gelatinous so, when it cools, it will solidify. I suddenly realize I haven't seen the refrigerator. We take the trays to the pantry room which is behind the kitchen and there is not one but three refrigerators. Great spot for cold storage.
I’m still curious about the lobster stock though. He gives me a try. I try to guess the ingredients. He tells me some. Oh, but of course! I recognize that flavor. Some secret ingredients remain untold. Every chef should have his or her secret ingredients. Greatness in the kitchen.
I have to leave before Bernard tackles the main course, a vol-au-vent filled with a meat mixture.
Before I leave I get to see the table setting. The setting is as important as the meal itself. Everything will capture the senses to make the entire experience memorable. He will use the plates that were specially designed and made for his restaurant.
I leave ready to try a meal at his protege’s restaurant the next day. Here, like at Bernard's, the table setting enhances the meal. You enter the room and feel transported to a lovely place where time stands still. And the meal is exquisite perfection. Each bite is a joy in the mouth. Perfectly balanced flavors dance in my mouth. I don’t want the experience to end.
A really good chef can create miracles in any ordinary kitchen while those of us with all the fancy kitchens tend to eat out. Go figure!