Maxime Lebrun (Sarlat, Dordogne)
On his menu, hake occasionally embraces smoked goose, St Pierre mixes with aniseed-flavoured beetroot risotto, whilst Périgord IGP foie gras adorns a yuzu-seed wine granita… Maxime Lebrun is an instinctive matchmaker.
This delicatessen-butcher’s grandson, who started off at a very young age in the kitchens of Matignon, the official residence of the French Prime Minister, proved his worth with the crème de la crème of French gastronomy (La Tour d’Argent, Faucher, Le Grand Véfour, etc.) before heading back to his native Dordogne, to work in particular with Roland Mazères, in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.
In his Grand Bleu, in Sarlat, he picked up his first star. Enchanted by the amazing scope of opportunities offered by the variety of products on-hand, he found it easier to work exclusively with fresh produce. And, he believes, this is what stimulates taste emotion.
“My cuisine is really instinctive. I create my dishes based on what gives me pleasure, tastes which I can conjure up that surprise me. It’s intuitive: the desire I have right then with the product on hand right then."
Restaurant Le Grand Bleu, 24200 Sarlat
Nicolas Soulié (Varetz, near Brive)
Nicolas Soulié’s professional path is rather unusual. There are not that many totally self-taught chefs in the world who pick up stars!
The story is therefore charming... the young man who, through love, arrived at the Château de Castel Novel, near Brive, and the keen gourmet who suddenly discovered he had remarkable talents… Guided by his passion for good food, the chef states he let his imagination take control and tailor the bases already established by the great initiators of gastronomy.
Open to experimenting, he lets the stroke of luck of a combination inspire him... Arabica-flavoured veal jus drizzled over veal sweetbreads. He adores varying tastes and textures. A way, he believes, to pay glowing tributes to products.
“I love variations. We can take the risk and break down a few barriers by taking a classical dish and enhancing it in another way, but the product must remain the product, with its texture and its taste. It’s important for me to recognize what I’m eating!”
Château de Castel-Novel, 19240 Varetz
“If Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s borders were closed, it would be impossible for great French cuisine to exist elsewhere”
Michel Guérard (starred chef at Eugénie-les-Bains in the Landes)