Taste and color
By Laurent Feneau
Somewhere between France and Asia, William Ledeuil is redrawing the contours of a truly contemporary cuisine. Colors, freshness and flavors; every taste is allowed as long as it is new!
"My child's nature can be found in my cuisine", writes William Ledeuil
in his latest book. We quickly understand the meaning of those words when we
listen to his story. The story of a child born in Bourges, in a family where
great cooking and good products are to be had on a daily basis. From his father
the butcher he remembers having learned to appreciate the quality of meat and
from his mother, the art of preparing calf's ruffle or sheep's tongue
"Dishes that are no longer done", he specifies before adding, "for
what interests me today is precisely that which one cannot find everywhere".
Is it for this reason that for ten years the chef traveled the world searching
for the best products, the rarest savors and the most insane flavors?
He could have been a bank director, paring files and counting beans but no, he chose cooking! He hesitated a long time, finding himself by chance at the École de cuisine française training to be the head of .. a company. But very quickly, he was drawn to the oven. First experience and first gourmet attraction at Guy Savoy. A decisive meeting that ended in twelve years of partnership between the kitchens and the accounts of the three-star chef. A year later, a break, to take stock. This time he was sure "it would be cooking or nothing!"
Pushing back the walls of the kitchen
His creative quest led him to Southeast Asia on a search for the perfect sensory balance. In Japan he found a different approach to the meal, in Vietnam, the richness of soups and variety of aromatic herbs, finally in Thailand, the savors and colors of the Bangkok market. Afterwards it was back to France for a tough debriefing "The cooking of Southeast Asia is simple with an instinctive approach to products; I've kept that but have added more technique", explains William Ledeuil. And it is here that the "Kitchen Galerie" magic operates!
His secret for avoiding getting starry-eyed? Think of "cooking as a game", a "purely egotistical activity for which I exclusively use the products I love, which enables me to express very personal things".
William and the Odyssey
Opting to place his sensitivity before culinary technique, his priority is to hunt for the emotion of the tastes and colors of each product. This results in a true gastronomical odyssey. Asparagus and shrimp in a Thai soup, taramasalata soup with lemongrass, white chocolate ice cream with green tea sauce, not to mention the green mango the chef deploys to perfection. The flavors can be a surprise but they are always spot on. "A French chef with no complexes?" Perhaps, but above all a chef with an uncommonly open mind and limitless curiosity. In the end, one and the other enable him to write a new equation of the senses with every dish, to create a subtle demonstration of balance and simplicity.
The first thing we notice in this extraordinary chef are his hands busy working materials, assembling shapes, mixing colors in a completely new way. William Ledeuil is above all "visual" and he likes to taste with his eyes. "Color is what triggers my desire to cook; colors are an integral part of my approach, they call upon tastes and textures I feel even before cooking or tasting a dish" he explains.
There is just one step from color to transparency that this chef doesn't hesitate to make. At Kitchen Galerie, the ballet in the kitchen is visible to the entire dining room. Colors, transparency, but also diversity; in the kitchen he is surrounded by a team of young chefs and apprentices from across the globe trained to interpret the scents as much as the flavors of their country of origin.
On the menu that changes every month we find simple products (multicolor vegetables from Joël Thiébault, fish, lamb, fruit etc.) flavored with the entire range of Thai herbs and Asian condiments (ginger, rice wine vinegar, wasabi etc.). "What is important for me is the sensation of freshness in the mouth, often provided by sour notes, but that can also include sweetness, saltiness, the whole playing on every aspect. Freshness for me is that of lemongrass, galanga or freshly cut Thai herbs...", he concludes. This very personal conception of freshness has just earned William Ledeuil a Michelin star. While that "may not have been his objective", states the chef who considers "cooking like a total pleasure and immense freedom", this star leaves a question mark in the sky. It will have taken seven years for the Kitchen Galerie to be considered something more than a "trendy" cafeteria. Seven years is a long time, the age of reason perhaps. Or simply the opportunity to have a good reason to call the chef: "Monsieur" William.
"If you were..."
Corsica, even if it's not a country
"Mission" by Roland Joffé
A graphic novel
A white Alsatian wine by André Ostertag
ZE KITCHEN GALERIE
4 rue des Grands-Augustins