At times art comes in surprising packages
Founded in 1729, the luxury champagne house Maison Ruinart has had an affiliation with art since 1896 when it commissioned Czech artist Alphonse Mucha to create an advertising poster (see the artwork here).
So, based on the fact that food is art, Ruinart asked seriously-out-there chef Alexandre Gauthier to create an “Unconventional Menu” in collaboration with David Shrigley, the Brighton-based contemporary artist/ provocateur who was chosen as Ruinart’s “Artist of the Year.” Shrigley was given carte blanche to create works of art (drawings, paintings, pots) depicting his impressions of champagne during immersive visits, experiences and tastings at the legendary champagne house in Reims. Of his collaboration with chef Gauthier he comments, “it’s all about creativity, commitment and devotion.”
Food for Art sees the trio of Chef Gauthier, Shrigley and Ruinart’s Cellar Master Frédéric Panaïotis presenting a unique culinary experiment at Gauthier’s quirky 2-Michelin star La Grenouillère (The Frog’s House) on Côte d’Opale, near Le Touquet. “It’s the search for the gustative sensation, the hope of creating a singular culinary harmony,” says Gauthier.
The theme, dubbed UNCONVENTIONAL / SINGULIER pairs remarkable champagnes, like 2007 Ruinart Rosé and Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004 cuvées, to complement the 11-course feast. Some of the daring, once-in-a-lifetime dishes include pelure (skin) d’oignon, confit en soufflé snacké. Or how about langoustine and crushed powder from Crayères sprinkled on black ravioli? John Dory (but just the skin) and garnish? Lobster in a burning juniper bush?
Of the matching champagnes, Cellar Master Frédéric Panaïotis reflects: “All our vintages reveal the strong imprint of Chardonnay. This delicate grape variety gives very particular freshness to our assemblages. The dishes that highlight these qualities marry perfectly with Ruinart champagnes. For example, buttered sea urchin by Alexandre Gauthier creates a harmonious marriage highlighting iodic notes.”
Need to know
Since 2003, Alexandre Gauthier has helmed the iconic family restaurant La Grenouillère, a 16th century Picardy longhouse, located on the picture postcard Côte d’Opale. Gauthier’s cuisine is daring, always in motion, “showcasing the purity of ingredients.” Following Le Touquet Hotel School he trained under chefs with very different styles: Grégory Coutanceau at La Rochelle, Régis Marcon at Saint Bonnet-le-Froid, Olivier Brulard, Résidence de la Pinède, Saint-Tropez, and, in Paris with Michel Roth chez Lasserre. But, in 2003, still in his 20s, Gauthier returned to La Madelaine sous-Montreuil to take over La Grenouillère from his father and, since then has picked up many awards including two Michelin stars and five GaultMillau toques. In 2012, he was named Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture, and published a cookbook, Alexandre Gauthier, Chef, in 2014 – the recently updated Volume 2 is published by LaMartinière/Abrams.
In 2016 David Shrigley’s Really Good, a sculpted seven-meter-high thumb took over the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, denouncing the contradictions of our era. In Reims, he boldly redesigned the Ruinart brand’s label and composed a poem about the “demanding” grape, joked about hard-working worms and painted a foot crushing the grapes… Of the bubbles he comments, “Each bottle is the same, each bottle is different. This is true of champagne and also true of art”. Watch out for Shrigley’s World Tour champagne tribute, coming to a town near you.
Menu available, on request, until February (€325 per person)
Sleep experience from €140-€390 + breakfast €22.50 pp
Relais & Chateaux, 19 rue de la Grenouillère, 62170 La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil
Tel: +33 3 21 06 07 22 and La Grenouillère website here.