The world of cuisine has changed, and some time ago at that. Nowadays people have a more respectful, more knowledgeable and healthier attitude to food. Sometimes the right approach depends on rules dictated by some of the world’s most famous restaurants and authoritative chefs. The Arpège in Paris is perhaps amongst the best examples of this, being the pioneer and promoter of vegetables, the ‘new’ haute cuisine.
The restaurant is near the Musee Rodin, in the VII Arrondissement, and is run by Alain Passard, one of the world’s most famous and farsighted chefs.
It is his farsightedness which is one of the restaurant’s distinguishing features. Back in 2001, when the restaurant boasted three Michelin stars, Passard decided to overhaul its fare completely by serving thereafter only vegetarian dishes.
Not everyone in the world of cuisine was ready to digest a step so revolutionary and ahead of its times. And so, a little later, Arpège reintroduced a small amount of non-vegetarian cooking. So it is today.
But the die was cast: Alain Passard surprisingly succeeded in disavowing clichéd haute cuisine whose main dishes had always included meat and fish without question.
Vegetables are the mainstay of Arpège’s cuisine, to the extent that Passard has created three vegetable gardens outside Paris to grow them in. Thus the ingredients he uses are the freshest, and constantly change in line with the seasons.
Freshness is in fact a crucial prerequisite: the vegetables are delivered to the restaurant shortly after being picked and must be consumed on the same day. But it would be a simplification to say that Arpège’s dishes are based on fresh vegetables of high quality, and leave it at that. The ingredients are handled by one of the best chefs in the world, the aim being to bring forth their flavour and provide them with a role never before seen in the kitchen.
Arpège boasts a chain of international awards, including three Michelin stars since 1996 and eighth position in the 2018 ranking of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Last year, Alain Passard was named the world’s best chef after attaining first position of Le 100 Chefs, a ranking drawn up by some of the world’s best chefs.
If vegetables count today as the main feature of cuisine, and almost a fashion in their own right, the merit is partly Alain Passard’s and that of his restaurant, Arpège.
Paris, July 2018