Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

March 6, 2014

Nickname for roving chef spawns dream

PARIS (AP) — Food nourishes the tiny Rue du Nil from the dim light of morning — when the first deliveries start going out to Paris’ most sought-after restaurants — until well after midnight, when the young chef who transformed an unchic side street into a culinary destination finally closes up.

In the meantime, sides of beef age in transparent lockers, pastrami is smoked, root vegetables are fondled, and visitors from around the world poke around in the (usually vain) hope that a reservation might open up at Frenchie, the restaurant that started it all.

The first meal Greg Marchand cooked for a crowd was veal in cream sauce — and the dozen or so orphans he shared a home with ate it up. He was subbing for the orphanage cook, who took weekends off. An indifferent student, he enrolled in cooking school after his time in the orphanage ran out at age 17.

“I wasn’t the best of the bunch. I had other things to sort out in my life first,” he said in a recent interview. “As soon as I finished cooking school, I left France. I wasn’t tied to France much.”

Marchand’s subsequent meandering path — hotel restaurants in London and Hong Kong, a beachside bar in Spain, Jamie Oliver’s kitchen, New York’s Gramercy Tavern — put him at the crest of bistronomie, the French movement combining highbrow gastronomy and the lowly corner bistro. He returned to France in 2009, just coming into his 30s and into his own as a chef.

Center of haute cuisine, Paris has been a relative latecomer to the idea of fresh food with local ingredients at prices more for the masses. Marchand, who had by then spent his professional life abroad, was unwittingly ready.

“A lot of young chefs — I’m part of it — open a restaurant with no investor, so with not much money. It’s often small places, with no designer work because they cannot afford it. But what we have is a craft, knowledge, experience,” he said. “It’s often chefs who have been traveling a lot. We have a French base, French cuisine basis, but because of our travel we are much more open-minded on ingredients, on culture, on techniques.”

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