The Chefs Club by Food & Wine at the St. Regis rotates some of the most promising chefs in the country to curate its menu on a seasonal basis. Based on the annual coronations of 10 “Best New Chefs” by the magazine, the restaurant serves as a stage for these winners to highlight their culinary skills.
But, the restaurant has expanded this idea to host two French chefs this month, bringing a cultural flair that is rarely produced by Americans. Cyril Lignac is in the Chefs Club kitchen this Friday and Saturday, and Mathieu Pacaud will be here March 14 and 16.
The Chefs Club is set up so that most diners can watch the art of cooking unfold. The exposure into the kitchen offers views of everything, from Lignac to the food-mixer in the back. Instead of highlighting just one station, it’s designed so that the room can watch everyone on the team navigate the culinary process.
On Wednesday, Lignac debuted his Aspen menu. The Michelin-star chef is a French media celebrity; he’s the face of Microsoft and has the most sales of a single cookbook in the country. The Parisian owns three restaurants — Le Quinzieme, Le Chardenoux and Le Chardenoux de Pres — and two patisseries, Les Chefs and La Boutique. This visit marks the third time he’s traveled to America to cook, and guests were treated to an authentic meal.
Four long macaroni noodles filled with black truffle foie gras, and topped with a crusted Parmigiano gratin were an interesting twist on a traditional item. One diner said that it was “lighter than in the United States,” and found the presentation delightful. For the vegetarian option, a citrusy kale salad with pine nuts and parmesan did the job.
An incredibly moist section of Maine lobster drizzled with an olive oil court-bouillon offered a nice second course, and paired well with the Domaine Vacheron Sancerre. The entree consisted of a Colorado rack of lamb with a turmeric carrot puree, or a fish option of grouper sautéed with mushrooms and greens. Both were met with resounding appreciation.
The true treat arrived in a double dose of dessert. First a crispy hazelnut and Californian lemon tart, followed by a Dominican Republic chocolate streussel.
Lignac brought his pastry chef and two sous chefs with him to Aspen. After dinner, Lignac circulated through the room, signing cookbooks and chatting with guests. When he arrived at our table, he admitted that he’d only been learning English for two months, but also hinted that he’d be opening a restaurant in New York sometime in the near future.
“I love the U.S.A. and I love Aspen,” he said. He’s a charming personality, with an approachable air. At 35, he’s still got a lifetime of cooking ahead of him, and some say he will join the ranks of Alain Ducasse or Daniel Boulud. For now, there’s an opportunity to see him in an intimate setting before the American food world engulfs him.
On deck is Mathieu Pacaud, the chef and co-owner of L’Ambroisie, a three Michelin star restaurant in Paris. He’ll be showcased at the Chefs Club for two nights.
For reservations, call (970)925-9581.