Wednesday, 27th June, the three winners of the Trophée Jeunes Talents Boiron Frères #3 – Margaux Bréhier, Marie Fourmont and Damien Rousset – meet after a year of travels in the vergers Boiron lab in Valence. It’s the last stage of an incredible adventure they embarked on a year ago, visiting three European countries and exploring very diverse human and gastronomic worlds. Their mission today: to share what they’ve learned, by preparing a giant buffet for all of the staff of Les vergers Boiron, for next day’s lunch.
The three young cooks are very concentrated, preparing the base for the six savory and four sweet dishes of the menu (see complete menu). Margaux mixes octopus ink into a puff cake, which she will later garnish with dill-seasoned salmon cream, an homage to Norway. Marie prepares an olive-based ice cream to help Damien make his beetroot and blackberry delight, a reminder of his trip to Germany.
As for Damien, he’s helping Marie by cutting and caramelizing onions, a key ingredient in Marie’s favorite dish, Maultaschen, meat-stuffed ravioli, taking her back to Germany.
What’s impressive, given that the three cooks have just got back to France and have never worked together, is that they have very naturally organized themselves in a brigade, helping each other to achieve the best result. “Cooking is teamwork. It’s one of the main things we’ve learned on our trip,” says Damien. The three award winners continue to collaborate well into the evening to prepare next day’s lunch.
The home stretch
Back in the kitchen early the next day, Margaux, Marie and Damien have begun their race against the clock. The three Trophée Jeunes Talents #3 winners continue to work in (almost) perfect harmony, preparing several dishes at the same time: mango duck filets with coffee sauce, Norwegian brown cheese macaroons, while concocting a twist on the famous Black Forest cake. To top it all off, they have to take time off for interviews with the press and a video for posterity’s sake.
Time is of the essence and, inevitably, the three cooks all come up against some unforeseen difficulty. Marie suddenly realizes that she’s completely forgotten what she learned from Werner, her cooking master in Germany, who has now become her adopted culinary grandfather. “I just can’t remember the gesture he used to stuff the Maultaschen. I’ve had to begin all over again three times and I still can’t get it right!” Suddenly, Marie has a flash. “That’s it,” she cries out, you have to stuff it with your pinky finger! Werner would be proud of me.” Great, she’s off again!
It’s now Margaux’s turn to stumble. She’s just burned the white chocolate for her Black Forest cake. Like Marie, she starts over three times before getting it right, but finally, everything works out!
Careful, though, time is marching on. It’s almost noon and the guests are about to arrive.
All hands on deck!
Just in time, a sous-chef comes onto the scene to lend a hand in the home stretch: Pablo Leveau, winner of the Trophée Jeunes Talents #2. He had simply come by to see how they were doing and share the moment of joy he had experienced the year before. Seeing the rush, he instinctively dons his jacket and apron and jumps in to lend a helping hand. At the same time, several guests offer to help by setting up the buffet in what has turned into a family-style meal.
The cooks and their newly-found assistants are in high gear and, around 12.30pm, as hoped for, the guests are all enjoying the treats the young chefs have offered up, full of the memories of an exceptional year.
Time to relax
It is now 2.30pm. Everything has gone perfectly. Everyone is leaving, delighted by this moment of shared pleasure. “Just after the meal, we finally sat down and realized that the dream was coming to an end,” says Marie. “Our conversation focused on the values we had learned over the year: respect for work well done, the importance of sharing and transmitting know-how.”
“Without forgetting pleasure and fun,” adds Margaux. After a well-deserved lunch, our three trophy winners, along with Pablo, get into a ferocious game of pétanque (French lawn bowling), playing against three company employees, joined by Alain Boiron.
A private dinner with a star chef
To end the day in style, the four award-winners of the Trophée Jeunes Talents, are off to the town of Pont de l’Isère, to have dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant of Michel Chabran, the godfather of their group. Before sitting down for dinner, Michel Chabran serves them a subtle cocktail he’s made specially for them and takes them around his secret garden: a lovely vegetable patch in the courtyard of his dining room. “We’re really spoiled in this region. Mother Nature provides us with great ingredients all year. All we have to do is reach out and pick what’s best and then respect these unbelievable products,” he says.
Michel Chabran, who has spent the day at the Monastery of La Grande Chartreuse, is very emotional. “We often hear that we have a difficult profession,” declares the chef who has spent the last 58 years cooking, “but it’s nothing compared to the devotion of these monks who spend their lives working the earth, meditating and thinking in almost complete silence.”
Michel Chabran talks to them about the lessons he’s learned cooking. “We’re very lucky because our work enables us to give pleasure to others, but also to enjoy what we do and have fun. You really have to create a special osmosis to make others happy.”
“When you get to my age, there’s nothing more gratifying than to transmit your know-how to others. It’s an essential value I share with the Boiron Frères company. It’s also an essential lesson that Paul Bocuse left us: that cooks have to take back the power in the kitchens, an essential principle at a time when the world is dominated by financial considerations. The greatest thing for me, in controlling our own destiny, is that my son is working alongside me today in the kitchen.”
The young cooks, clearly touched by what the chef is saying, listen closely to his every word. His last piece of advice, which they will probably remember all their lives: “Fight for your freedom at all costs. Find a place that suits you, preferably somewhere that is blessed by nature and give yourself as much pleasure as possible by remaining true to yourself.” A great lesson in life to end their trip and begin the journey toward new horizons at the heart of the vast world of cooking.