Good and honest cooking, that’s Dufau…
By Laurent Feneau
A few colourful touches, very often using flowers but always plants, Christophe Dufau seeks a cuisine that is totally symbiotic with his environment. Result: his first star and life in the Vence region...
On the hills overlooking Vence, at the foot of the Chapelle Matisse, Christophe
Dufau's kitchen garden which lies immediately behind his kitchens, looks like
a striking work of art. There is colour everywhere. Sky blue to start with and,
below that, the rich green of the hillside, then like thousands of touches of
light, the coloured hues of briar roses, violets and mimosa. It only takes a
few seconds to find in these colours a reminder of Picasso and Chagall who turned
the city of the arts into their holiday abode and here's the chef! Deep blue
apron, deep blue eyes
"I've never been interested in anything else except cooking, a passion that was nurtured in my by my grandmother and my mother", he immediately confided before continuing down his path. "After spending time with the Roux brothers in London, I moved on to Denmark where I worked with Jan Hurtikarl, one of the main Danish chefs ". And reminiscing, "the restaurant was right out in the country. It closed for six months of the year and we took advantage of this break to travel. I accompanied Jan to the USA, Hong-Kong and the Caribbean. It is thanks to him that I was able to open up to different cultures".
Back in France in 2000, he took over the Auberge de Tourrettes in the village of the same name where he imposed his own style of cooking, "cuisine that is modern and up-to-the-minute", as he likes to define it.
" This is not a technical approach. I take great care and involve myself in the choice of products and I ensure that the time between sourcing products on the morning's market and their preparation is as short as possible". Christophe's work reveals great awareness of his everyday environment. "I am inspired by all these people around me, the small market gardeners, my children and my artist friends. Not to mention my travels past and future".
Oh yes. Christophe likes to be on the move. A year ago, finding Tourettes-sur-Loup too confining, he moved to this magnificent 19th century villa in the Vence region. By pushing back the walls, the chef extended his universe. He, the building and the garden are but one. His cuisine remains in tune with his kitchen garden throughout the seasons. The result: both are always blooming. Also, Christophe's thing is about flowers...
The yellow line
"Most flowers are edible", states the chef who, moreover, knows what he's talking about! Everything grows in the typically Mediterranean garden that surrounds his restaurant. Flowers, like life, must be savoured to the full, starting with the nasturtium. "Its flower is slightly peppery and its leaf has a very cool flavour", explains Christophe. Wild crocuses also occupy a good position on the hills of the Vence region. But although the crocus is known for its precious stigma that give us saffron, not many people know that the whole flower and its corolla leaves are delicious
In salads, Christophe Dufau uses it with young beet and rocket shoots to which he adds raw and cooked fennel. Nor does he hold back from combining other flowers such as wild violet with the crocus, "while taking great care with proportions because violets have a stronger fragrance than the crocus" he told us. The quintessence of Christophe's cuisine seems to focus on a dish that is both dazzling and appealing. A beetroot cream with mimosa oil topped with a ball of ricotta over which the yellow flakes of the flower are scattered. Finally, a fluorescent yellow touch: a few drops of Macon highlight the subtly sweet hint of pollen.
Dishes that are always fragrant sensations. So why not round off the meal with lively aromatic combinations involving the crocus - yet again! - added to a Sherry based saffron flavoured orange juice and sugar jus that is reduced and served with an orange sorbet, topped with the flower as a final touch. A sensitive dessert...
247 avenue de Provence