A stubborn-minded Basque
By Laurent Feneau
Inaki Aizpitarte is open to all the latest trends and yet systematically makes
changes which go against any current cooking styles. This young Basque chef, owner
of the Chateaubriand, innovates using an authentic and straight-forward cooking
style, creating the most unexpected flavours.
A total gastronomical paradox
A charming old-fashioned brasserie façade situated on a large avenue
in the 11th arrondissement and bordered by sycamore trees
Welcome to the
Chateaubriand with its large high-ceilinged dining room, its bar built in dark
wood lit up by a trio of outdated glass globes and the dark, naked tables. The
bistro has a distinct retro style but the cooking is undoubtedly contemporary.
And then there are the excellent waiters with their long-lived white aprons
and immaculate shirts, but wearing hipster jeans, an open collar, long hair
and a three-day beard. But all this is necessary to promote the latest creations
by Inaki Aizpitarte, this young Basque chef unanimously claimed as a winner
by restaurant critics.
After his very conspicuous, and often contested beginnings at La Famille, a real laboratory for new flavours in Montmartre, this creator of non-traditional recipes then worked at the Transversal - the MAC/VAL restaurant belonging to the contemporary art museum of Vitry-sur-Seine, and finally laid down his hat at the Chateaubriand which he opened in 2006 with Frédéric Peaneau whom he met at the Burq café, a stones throw away from the La Famille. He manages this renowned restaurant, without ever abandoning his vagrant lifestyle, this man who, at one time was headed towards landscaping studies but who one day decided to drop everything to go learn the fundamentals of cooking with a Serbian chef in Tel-Aviv
Clash of flavours
The cooking at the Chateaubriand is but a mere reflection of himself - unpredictable, surprising, straight-forward, but most of all, as the chef himself admits - rather "difficult to define". He adds, "I just hope people can understand what I am trying to accomplish each time, and that by having fewer and fewer flavours, the essential becomes more distinct". One thing certain about this chef, who undeniably creates new cooking trends, is that he is a true master when choosing his products, creating the desired clash of flavours, rather than pleasing everyone by concocting the basic and obvious associations. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Inaki has a real gift for creating improbable food pairs, like this "dessert" with sweetened avocado and passion fruit, topped with a shrimp wafer.
His favourite product? The radish! "You can find everything in a radish. It is fresh, spicy and juicy. It is a whole product which I use a lot when experimenting in the kitchen. For example there is a very simple dish where I alternate sliced radishes and fine slivers of raw, or slightly cooked, foie gras. Here the foie gras replaces the butter". Delightful surprises for the happy few. The lemon, which he discovered at Gilles Choukroun's restaurant, is another of his favourite fruits. This citrus fruit allowed him to appreciate acidity as in other products "like vinegars which automatically add a certain liveliness to a dish".
A star-chef profile
This young, open-minded star chef at the Chateaubriand is inspired by everything and anybody. From Pascal Barbot, chef of the Astrance in Paris, to his mother's kitchen, and passing through the little restaurants in Belleville, Inaki always leaves his kitchen doors open to all new flavours, tastes and aromas put together by chefs, well-known or not. As he puts it, "We can be influenced by bistro cooking, a cafeteria dish or some home-cooking". A large French daily paper recently ranked Inaki as the third greatest chef in France, right after Michel and Sébastien Bras, and just before Thierry Marx. "All that means nothing to me as being ranked like that will never change the way I work. In my opinion, the best restaurant in Paris is far from luxurious - it is the Baratin, in Belleville, where Raquel Carena cooks food which I relate to". This chef not only upsets all the cooking codes and rules, but he also seems to thoroughly enjoy having his guests be confused by the menu At the Chateaubriand, the starters, main dishes and desserts are never named as such. Inaki and his team in fact offer a unique 5-course menu with enough unusual presentations to make you forget all your traditional and usual meal references. There are sweet dishes, savoury dishes, fruit and vegetables which are all mingled together, the fish and meat become one and it is more likely to see the big plates being put on top of the little ones, and not the other way around! But be sure that your entire meal experience is carried out in a most exquisite poetical disorder.
With some poached scallops, accompanied by hearts of palm and pomegranates, this culinary genius succeeds in playing on all the flavours and textures - the acidulous pomegranate seeds, the tender scallops and the crunchy hearts of palms, etc. This self-taught chef undoubtedly has a singular talent, managing a totally unconventional kitchen where one can often find the most enlightened culinary professionals enjoying a meal, such as Pierre Hermé or Alain Ducasse. The Chateaubriand is where you could be awarded stars without ever even trying!
" If you were "
- A quality: humility
- An animal: a dog
- A country: Argentina
- A kind of music: the Cumbia, a traditional music of Colombia
- A film: "Macadam Cowboy" by John Schlesinger
- A book: "Sorciers" by Jim Harrison
- A famous woman: Simone Signoret
- A dish: a ceviche
- A wine: a cuvée of Pierre Overnoy or Eric Pfifferling
129, avenue Parmentier