Friday, January 24, 2014

Scallop roe

At Bones restaurant in Paris, chef James Henry reserves the gorgeous coral from Brittany sea scallops; 43 rue Godefroy Cavaignac, 11th arrond.; bonesparis.

He brines it in salted water for 12 hours, then dehydrates it to create intensely flavored scallop chips to use like dried shrimp.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stats: Spring

2 or 3
a night, Chicago-born chef-owner Daniel Rose lops off the cork of a Champagne bottle with a saber at his Paris restaurant, Spring, 6 rue Bailleul, 1st arrond.; 

1 in 20

 Number of bottles broken.  

printed menus

Servers ask guests if they'd like to know what's on the night's 84-euro prix fixe or be surprised. "There is no menu," says Rose. "We just make dinner."

Sample of a dinner worksheet.

A team of five cooks, plus two apprentices turns out Paris-via-Chicago food for about 60 guests at dinner in two dining rooms, upstairs and


Spring executive chef Gilles Chesneau (left) worked with Michelin-three-star Guy Savoy for almost two decades at restaurant Guy Savoy ( in Paris. He also re-opened the celebrated nouvelle cuisine restaurant Le Chiberta ( next to the Champs-Elysées for Savoy before joining Rose at Spring. "Why do I hire guys with so much experience," Rose says. "So I can learn something."

Argentine-born maître d' Guillermo Campos oversaw dining rooms in Paris palace hotels turning out meals for 800. Now at Spring he smiles all the time.

a week need laundering.

of chicken wings were purchased to make chicken stock in the first year Spring opened on the Rue de Bailleul. 

make Spring run smoothly.

years old
Median age of Spring employees.

8 1/2
Spring staffers have a happy family life. Rose's second child is on the way.

First you have to find the right partner; being with someone else in the restaurant business helps.

Rose self-published his first book—illustrated with his own drawings—in 2013, available at the restaurant and online at His inspiration comes from traditional cookbooks, like Escoffier's "Guide Culinaire" and French publisher Robert Lafont's nouvelle cuisine chef series. "I'm trying to do classic French food," he says, "when everybody else is trying to mix it up."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stats: L'Ami Jean

40 to 50 
lunch customers
come for Paris chef Stéphane Jégo's bistro classics prepared with exquisite ingredients, like braised beef with carrots and a creamy omelet with sautéed fresh cèpe (porcini) mushrooms and chopped parsley, made by whipping the eggs with an immersion blender.

"We're a Deux Chevaux with a Ferrari engine," Jégo says of the restaurant.

"I was constantly on the phone with suppliers," he says. "I couldn't peel an onion without being interrupted. Texting changed my life."

Jégo, a Breton, kept the original southwestern accent, setting the tables with fresh Basque linens, when he purchased the spot more than 10 years ago and 

added his own fun style.

dinner guests
plus up to 10 walk-ins. At night, Jégo divides the menu between traditional à la carte choices and an inventive eight-course prix fixe, 

with suave dishes such as sautéed pétoncles (bay scallops) in the shell with chicken broth 

and veal tartare with beets and sunny-side-up egg.

Jégo develops his stocks over weeks and weeks, adding a freshly made batch to the deeply flavored original every day.

remain on the menu year after year—creamy parmesan soup and over-the-top rice pudding, enriched with whipped cream and a salted caramel sauce. Jégo constantly changes the other dishes.

Jégo lets the hare for his lièvre à la royale marinate for near a month, then cooks it for 12 hours and leaves it in its cooking liquid to develop even more before serving.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Night in the Life of Paris chef Yves Camdeborde

6:45 p.m.
Kisses a regular at L'Avant-Comptoir, the chef's hors-d'oeuvres spot next door to his much-celebrated Paris bistro, Le Comptoir du Relais Camdeborde recently revamped the space, installing a full kitchen and screen of plastic strips painted with a frisky pig to separate the bustling bar from the take-out counter and blasts of cold air. 

On the counter: must-have seasonings for a Paris chef—Dijon mustard and piment d'Espelette.

Before the dinner rush at Le Comptoir.

The night's 60-euro prix fixe.

Chanterelle mushrooms serve as seasonal knife rests.

8 p.m.
Perched on a stool in his tiny kitchen, Camdeborde retrieves house-dried curly cabbage leaves for the starter. He finely grinds them and rolls three-minute duck eggs in the bright green powder; the eggs come with red wine-shallot sauce. "It's like eggs en meurette," he says, referring to the Burgundy classic poached eggs in wine sauce, "but with a sparkle."

Three-minute duck egg with cinnamon-dusted bacon, brussels sprouts raw + cooked, kumquats.

8:25 p.m.
Disappears to change his chef's jacket.

Later that night...

Stats: Le Comptoir du Relais

The number of cups chef-owner Yves Camdeborde drinks in a day. No cream. No sugar. "It's the warmth I like," says the bistrotier, who sprints nonstop between his restaurant, hotel, wine bar and office—all on one tiny stretch of the carrefour de l'Odéon in the sixth arrondissement. His beans come from Paris coffee roaster L'Arbre à Café, 10 rue du  Nil, 2nd arrond.;

spent as a judge on the French TV kitchen competition "MasterChef" ( › Programmes › Masterchef › Jury‎). "It was fantastic but I felt like a visitor at my own restaurant," he says. "Le Relais is home."

come in daily to book a dinner table or room at Camdeborde's small, 17th-century hotel, Le Relais Saint-Germain;

3 or 4
The wait for Camdeborde's wildly delicious 60-euro weeknight prix fixe. But the chef saves tables for guests at Le Relais Saint-Germain, and chance-takers who show up between 6 and 7 p.m. occasionally get a same-day dinner reservation. 

It took two friends almost two decades to get together for a reunion dinner. They scored a last-minute table at Le Comptoir on the much-anticipated night.

lunch customers
eat updated bistro classics like whipped haddock mousse with herring caviar in a shellfish gelée and andouillette sandwiches with cornichon butter at Le Comptoir on sunny days.

lunch cooks
 in a kitchen the size of any other restaurant's coat check room.

hors d'oeuvres
plus 10 daily specials and 70 wines are offered at L'Avant-Comptoir, Camdeborde's convivial wine bar next door to his bistro and hotel. A discreet plaque defines the word "hors d'oeuvre" for anyone who insists on calling AC a tapas bar. "We have a perfectly good French word for small plates," says the chef.

dinner cooks
prepare the nightly five-course menu + room service orders.

are served the set dinner menu Monday to Friday.

Cambdeborde lets his braised veal breast rest for two full days in an aromatic broth to let the flavors develop. Then he browns it on the plancha, brushes it with garlic-shallot-herb butter (this snail butter adds shine and pungency) and finishes the cooking in the oven.

are ferried up the stairs (and down) on napkin-lined trays during the dinner service by one hard-working runner-dishwasher. That's two plates every minute. 

The work day of Le Comptoir's tireless plongeur. "Go! Go, Richard," says Cambdeborde. "The mint sorbet is melting!"

Camdeborde's collection of current and vintage cookbooks in his office and home.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Food + Art

Paris patisserie Maison Pradier's winter cut-paper window, 49 bis avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 8th arrond.;

My friend Jessica Palmer specializes in this type of paper-cut design work

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pig I, Pig II

Têtes de porc I.  Rue de la Convention market, 15th arrond., Paris.

Tête de porc II.  Chambre du sanglier, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, 62 rue des Archives, 3rd arrond., Paris;