Le Clair de la Plume – Taste of a Michelin Star (Part 2)

Le Clair de la Plume, Grignan, France

Read part 1 here 

Between split shifts at Lulu Hazard, I am grateful that I was able to get 2 days off to spend learning in the kitchen at Le Clair de la Plume. After the owner, Jean-Luc Valadeau dined at our restaurant, I asked him if I could come for a stage (the culinary tradition of job shadowing). It has always been my dream to step into a Michelin star kitchen, especially a French one and for 2 days I got to hang my hat up here…

For the short time that I was there, I helped with many different techniques: macarons, creme anglaise, decorating delicate little lemon tarts, chopping fruit into small dice for fruit salad, meticulously layering sheets of phyllo with milk/vanilla sugar and wrapping them around copper pipes before baking.

For verrines, I spooned a jam of fresh apricots/peaches on the bottom of glasses, followed by puffs of whipped ganache, topped off with slivers of fresh peach. Then, with tweezers, placed 3 sprigs of micro verbena.

For the traditional paris brest: Tiny disks of craqeuline are laid over choux pastry before baking. Baked rings of pastry are halved, then filled with feuilletine studded praline mousseline. A toasted hazelnut is pressed into the centre of each puff.

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Learning to make macarons with Johan Triart

There are so many little details I wrote religiously – the specific stage of sugar caramelization, bubbles around the edges of amber liquid. Pride was taken in the bright green mint sorbet, intensely flavourful and coloured only by it’s own chlorophyll. Just before dinner service, Johan handed me a pair of tiny scissors from his knife kit and took me out to the garden hidden beside the dining terrace. Here we softly plucked basil as he explained the importance of the shape of the leaves, carefully choosing the small symmetrical ones sprouting from the centre of each cluster – which we then packed in paper towel for garnish. Making time for meticulous attention to detail is the magic of that kitchen.

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I wish that there was more time for me to learn from the savoury side of the kitchen. I tasted  phenomenal morel cream sauce as it simmered away and nearly wept at boxes full of summer truffles which were being shaved over a piquant espuma of local demi-sec chèvre. Thank you to Jean-Luc Valadeau, the talented Chef Julien Allano and Chef Pattisier Johan Triart for welcoming me into the kitchen with great hospitality and making me feel like a member of the team for the short time that I was there. A shout-out to Sergei Bozhok, Yura Brzheitskiy, Viktor Korotnianskiy, Tomas Vandaele, Sacha Anceschi, Gonzalo Resendiz as well as the others who I had the pleasure of passing by in those 2 days. That meal was an extravagant treat, and the entire experience; more fuel to push the bar higher everyday.

A special thank you to my gentille patron Severine Measson, for her kindness and support of my career, for giving me the chance to be part of her team at the opening of her new restaurant. To Chefs Christophe Measson and Rene Chauvin at George Brown College for offering me the opportunity to work in France. To Sam for being my partner in taking creative risks everyday together and learning the French palate by trial. To the produce suppliers Els, Jacqueline and Kevin at L’epicerie Grignan, for their hard work and my peach or nectarine every morning. To the front-of-house crew at Lulu Hazard, Franck, Manon and Chloe. To beautiful Francoise. To my friend, the skilled Chef Romain Chaillot, whose talent pushed me even further in my skills with clean plating, finer brunoise of onion, careful balance of flavour. To my close friends and to my wonderful partner, Elvir Kovacevic, supporting my journey from back home.

Be vulnerable, follow your dreams, celebrate the people around you and love the path of mastering your craft.

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