by Christophe Blain

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Review

Illustrated by the French graphic novelist Christophe Blain, In the Kitchen with Alain Passard (2013) provides insights into the hectic yet rarified universe of the eponymous chef.  Moving from Passard’s three-Michelin-star restaurant in Paris to his country house and biodynamic gardens, In the Kitchen feels like a collection of episodes sketched on the fly. Blain excels at capturing the small details of body language and gesture that give a sense of Passard’s dynamic personality and his passion for food and cooking. Far from effacing his own presence in the kitchen, Blain makes himself a supporting character. An enchanted yet bemused visitor to the land of haute cuisine, he’s often found lurking at the edge of a sketch, notebook in hand, or peering into a steaming pot on the stove.  

In the Kitchen also paints a vivid picture of the high-stakes work environment at L’Arpège, where Passard demands equal amounts of creativity and precision from each member of his staff. A consummate aesthete, Passard is obsessed with obtaining the most perfect raw ingredients and serving them in a way that brings out their essential character.  His focus on purity and cleanliness in both his working methods and in flavors of his food lead him to focus almost exclusively on fruits and vegetables, working with meat as little as possible.  Passard’s recipes, which are interspersed throughout the book, are particularly unique for their attention to color and texture, and many of them – like the lovely salad of green beans, white peaches, and almonds – are accessible and affordable enough to try at home.

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