The one with a Chef Extraordinaire

Christophe Blain, In the Kitchen with Alain Passard (2011)

This book is a weird crossover: part cookbook, part graphic novel. Part reverent portrait of a great chef, Alain Passard, part ironic reportage about following the chef and his assistants for 3 years and falling head over heels for his extravagance. There are recipes beginning each “chapter”, but I’m not sure if they are meant to be made at home by the reader.

Alain Passard is a French gastronomy master, but not the kind of chef that would go on TV. He’s passionate about food and creating new ways to appreciate produces, especially vegetables. He’s practically vegetarian, and keeps several gardens in France that explore old vegetables varieties and grow organically everything that will be used in Passard’s restaurants. He comes out as uncompromising about quality and technique, but as the same time a bon viveur (I love this pseudo-French)

Christophe Blain, the graphic artist, has something for great men. He’s the artist behind Quai d’Orsay, another graphic novel inspired by the memoirs of a lowly diplomat working for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In that book, the Minister was a man bigger than life, and his assistants were fawning over him and blindly obey his whims. Passard is that kind of genius too, and nowhere is it more obvious than during a double page aside where one of Passard’s female assistant gushes over her boss with blushing cheeks as if she was in love with him.

The result is a very interesting literary and artistic experience, as Blain tries to replicate produces and techniques with his art, by showing hands and faces. His style is quite minimalist, so it’s really a challenge to represent on paper a sensory experience that was mainly based on taste (of course), smell, texture (touch), sound (the din of the kitchen, the reverent whisper of the restaurant) and only partially on sight.

But if you manage to read this book to the end without feeling hungry and wanting to try new ways to cook your usual vegetables, even if you’re not a foodie, I will be very surprised indeed!

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2 thoughts on “The one with a Chef Extraordinaire

  1. Sounds like fun! I love that there are so many creative uses of the graphic format these days. Do you think you will be trying any of the recipes or are they of the complicated and daunting kind?

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