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French chefs Pascal Aussignac and Germain Marquis are bringing traditional Gascon cuisine to the UK in very different ways, but what they both share is a desire to keep it simple, says Grahame Senior


n a more forgiving economic cli- mate, achieving a ‘high level of mediocrity’ (once the stated strategic aim of one of our lead- ing hospitality operators) might well have been enough to get you by. In today’s demanding and eco- nomically constrained world, only the very best will do. Success in the hos- pitality and leisure business today demands ever more of the operator. Integrity and top class performance in every aspect is demanded.


Over the past 20 years or so, Britain has undergone a revolution in res- taurant provision. The British cooking scene has created a host of superstar chefs whose opinions, publications and enterprises have flourished and waned with all the usual rhythm of reality. Those who have continually improved and perfected their food offering have largely remained and prospered. Those who have been dis- tracted from their purpose by the heady trappings of media success and celebrity have in many cases disappeared.

It was ever thus. No matter how much hype, innovation and sheer chutzpah is invested in new ways of delivering pleasure on a plate, at

the end of the day, it does comes down to the three Cs: Cooking, Consistency and Commitment to quality.

FRANCE STILL CARES DEEPLY FOR FOOD Long before the rise of modern British cook- ing, France was famous for food. From the days of Elizabeth David onwards, we Brits have wondered at the quality, range and diversity of the products of the French kitchen. Sadly, France has suffered as much as (or even more than) we have from the fast food inva- sion and, to an extent, the growth of the workaholic society (“lunch is for wimps!” becoming the battle cry). However, in la France Profonde good cooking is still the order of the day in domestic kitchens and in the regional restaurants. It is arguable that the French haute cuisine truly has a simpler beat at its heart. That great heart is Gascon. Gascony has long delivered a robust celebration of good food, well cooked and lovingly presented. Of course, it is a region richly blessed in natu- ral resources. From the duck, geese and foie gras culture of Les Landes right through to the foothills of the

Eating well and living well

do not have to be alternatives. They can be good companions

70 Read Leisure Management online

Pyrenees, you will find foodie perfection. With truffles to search for and acorns and beech- mast to munch, the forests are a paradise for pigs. The restau- rants offer perfection on a plate for pork lov- ers and the resources of the sea and rivers are no less rich and no

less well used. In Gascony lunch is not for wimps but is a proper punctuation in each day for those who understand the art of living well. Gascony is the country of bucolic pleasures and Boccaccian gusto. The land of d’Artagnan also throws up sophisticated and intelligent cook- ing and gastronomy like that temple of Sybaritic sense that is Michel Guerard’s Pres d’Eugenie. Nowhere is the balance between robust ingre- dients perfectly prepared and finesse more exquisitely explored than in his cuisine minceur. Eating well and liv- ing well do not have to be alternatives, they can be good companions. Throughout France, restaurateurs and hoteliers follow the Gascon tradition and find it a robust route to success with the demanding diners of today.

GREAT BRITISH GASCONS Interestingly, we have two superb practitioners in this country of this passion for perfect regional sea- sonal produce perfectly presented – Germain Marquis, owner of Le Clos du Marquis in Hampshire, and Pascal Aussignac, owner of Club Gascon in London. While they couldn’t be more different in their approach in terms

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