Cooking with an Environmental Conscience

July 1, 2008

La-Terrasse-by-Serge-DetalleBravo to Alain Ducasse for launching a very important new trend in Paris–environmentally conscious cooking. At Ducasse’s delightful Le Relais du Parc, Chef Romain Corbiere designs his entire menu around the idea of environmentally correct seasonal produce. Instead of serving fish like cod or sea bass which come from threatened stocks, Corbiere offers farm-raised salmon from an organic farm in Scotland and wild fish like rougets (red mullet) and John Dory, which are not as menaced by overfishing as other species. Corbiere’s meat and vegetables also come from small environmentally conscious producers, most of them organic.

What’s at play here is the emerging idea of inventing an environmentally consciencious cuisine for the 21st century, and on the basis of a dinner here the other night, great cooking and enlightened farming and fishing obviously go hand in hand. If environmentally correct food has long had advocates like Alice Waters and the Oldways organization in Boston, it’s only now that major French chefs are factoring both your health and that of the planet into how they design their menus.

Eschewing cod, Corbiere serves a superb summer soup of pureed piquillo peppers with petals of salted yellow pollack, white tuna (less threatened than red) on a deliciously smokey bed of caponata and a porchetta of rabbit on a bed of bitter herbs as first courses, and follows with roast duckling breast with baby peas and onions in a black-olive enriched pan juice, salmon with eggplant caviar and baby potatoes and a sublime dish of tiny rougets with baby vegetables and snail butter.

I don’t know if it’s environmentally correct or not, but if there’s one dish not to miss here, it’s the coquillettes aux truffes d’ete, jambon, et jus d’un roti–tiny elbow macaroni with julienned ham, summer truffles and roast veal jus. If this dish could be delivered to my doorstep daily at noon, I’d be a very, very happy man.

Desserts are a seasonal tour de force, too, including a sublime pistachio blanc manger with chopped pineapple and lime sorbet and a feuillete de framboises (raspberries) with lemon verbena pastry cream. The wine list is a treat, too–the red Saint Romain is perfect summer drinking, and the spacious terrace here is one of the loveliest places in Paris to dine on summer night.

55-57 avenue Raymond Poincare, 16h, 01.44.05.66.10

Photo by Serge Detalle

  • Rachel Lee

    Hi Alec,

    Le Relais du Parc sounds very interesting, and it is good news that a major chef like Ducasse is putting his weight behind sustainable foods. One question–what’s the average price per person at Le Relais?

    We’re coming to Paris next week and now that we’ve so enjoyed reading your book, we can’t wait to put it into practice!

    Sincerely,
    Rachel Lee
    Santa Monica, CA

  • Alec Lobrano

    Hello Rachel,

    Dinner at Le Relais du Parc averages 65 Euros a person for two courses without wine. If you’re on a budget, I’d suggest sharing a starter like the white tuna with caponata, which is generously served, and also a dessert.

    Best, Alec

  • Barbara Cullen

    Bonjour,

    Thanks for telling us about this, Alec. I think it’s a very important trend, and it’s one we’re starting to see in the U.S., too. The real challenge for the 21st century cook will be food that’s as good for the environment as it is for us both in terms of taste and health.

    Sincerely, Barbara