More than 60 Grands Chefs came together to blow out the 60 candles on the Relais & Châteaux cake yesterday at Georges Blanc’s Relais & Châteaux in Vonnas, for a vintage, 50s-style celebration.
Philippe Gombert, International President of Relais & Châteaux, stressed: ‘We should never forget the debt that we owe to all those who shaped our destiny. On 12 May 1954, not far from Vonnas, at the ‘Chapon Fin’ belonging to Georges Blanc’s uncle, Paul Blanc, at the end of a morning’s work, eight hoteliers and chefs laid the foundations of Relais & Châteaux. They decided to unite their eight hostelleries, all authentic, lived-in properties sited along the road from Paris to Nice, to share with their guests a magnificent Art of Living and outstanding cuisine in the firm belief that one day their shared passion would prove a global success. Sixty years later, to the very day, we can say that the dream of our founding fathers has come true."
Highlights of the day included a 1950s-style ‘taste rally’, including culinary discoveries in convivial company. In the words of Georges Blanc, the esteemed host of the event: ‘People say that “Happiness is the only thing that doubles in size when you share it” and that is certainly the case for this fine family occasion’.
The menus alone offered ample proof of this with the exclusive participation of Moët Hennessy and their outstanding wines and champagnes.
In a large hall, transformed for the occasion into a 1950s popular market, eight French Relais & Châteaux Grands Chefs from the surrounding area set the tone with mises en bouche celebrating the local produce of the Association’s original birthplace and guests enjoyed a glass of Moët & Chandon Impérial Blanc.
The ‘Relais & Châteaux Fellow Chefs’ Lunch’, signed by Georges Blanc, added a contemporary twist to a traditional menu: the iconic frogs legs sautéed Dombes-style with parsley accompanied by a glass of 2006 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Blanc; Mère Blanc’s legendary poulet de Bresse with morels and Vin Jaune with Vonnas crêpes served with a 1999 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection; and traditional Bresse galettes paired with a Nectar Impérial from the same champagne company.
The evening menu provided a superb finale to a day devised for the occasion by Georges Blanc and hosted in his gourmet restaurant: a ‘surf and turf’ jellied oyster garnished with Oscietra Royal caviar followed by a mystery soup with langoustines and shellfish served with a 1996 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque, a lobster printanière with Savagnin wine and a blend of spices paired with a 2002 Dom Pérignon Rosé, an Aveyron lamb pastry, and a green cabbage and foie gras terrine savoured with a glorious 2008 Domaine Faiveley Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, Grand Cru. The dinner finished with a creative strawberry and raspberry dessert and a divine 1996 Château d’Yquem followed by a Paradis Impérial Hennessy cognac.
Everywhere, there were fine ingredients, the fruit of our terroirs, traditions and expertise, as could be seen by the presence of Pierre Sanner, Director of the French Mission for Food Culture and Heritage. Sixty years later, Relais & Châteaux remains the contemporary global embodiment of these values, in keeping with those of its founding fathers.
Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex, Frédéric Anton, Christophe Bacquié, Pierre Basso-Moro, Patrick Bertron, Georges Blanc, Fréderic Blanc, Raymond Blanc, Thomas Bühner, Stéphane Buron, Enrico Cerea, Jean-André Charial, Lanshu Chen, Philippe Chevrier, Didier Clément, Damien Coche, Mauro Colagreco, Christopher Coutanceau, Jacques Decoret, Stéphane Decotterd, Fréderic Desmurs, Thierry Drapeau, Walter Eselböck, Annie Féolde, Alexandre Gauthier, Michel Guérard, Per Hallundbaek, Patrick Henriroux, Ernesto Iaccarino, Jean-Pierre Jacob, Michel Kayser, Ronan Kervarrec, Jean-Georges Klein, Julien Lahire, Guy Lassausaie, Cyril Leclerc, Jean-Michel Lorain, Edouard Loubet, Mark Lundgaard, Régis Marcon, Marc Meneau, Philippe Mille, Riccardo Monco, Toni Mörwald, Ilario Mosconi, Patrick O’Connell, Eric Pras, Bernard Ravet, Franck Reynaud, Jean-Luc Rocha, Michel Rochedy, Olivier Roellinger, Michel Rostang, Antonio Santini, Shinichi Sato, Georges Victor Schmitt, Jean Sulpice, Peter Tempelhoff, Davy Tissot, Michel Trama, Michel Troisgros, César Troisgros, Gaetano Trovato, Philippe Vételé, Alain Weissgerber, Georges Wenger, Harald Wohlfahrt, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Yuki Yamaguchi.
Pierre Basso-Moro, Patrick Bertron, Patrick Henriroux, Guy Lassausaie, Jean-Michel Lorain, Marc Meneau, Eric Pras, Michel Troisgros
Images © Thomas Bismuth/Mediatome