PARIS, 18 NOVEMBER 2005—To most people, tomatoes are round, red and shiny. They come in
crates at the supermarket, in cans labelled "plums", or disguised as
ketchup in bottles. And yet, as William Ledeuil, the talented young chef
at "Ze Kitchen Galerie", a delicious French restaurant on the left bank of
Paris, commented, there are between 250 to 300 varieties of this versatile
vegetable / fruit around. Recipes on how to deal with them are only a part
of his beautiful cookery book, Les Couleurs du Gout
, published by Seuil last year.
Ledeuil told me that his supplier, Joel Thiebault, worked with seventy
to eighty different varieties of tomato, and that he himself frequently
uses Green Zebra, coloured a soft sage green with bright emerald stripes,
as well as Orange Queen, which he finds in every hue of red and orange. He
added that varieties such as Coeur de Boeuf, Jambe de Banane, Cornue,
Ananas, Blanche, as well as the whole family of cherry tomatoes, not
to mention cocktail ones, were now found relatively easily. Tomatoes, he
added, came in a bewildering selection of yellows, greens, black, purple
and white, and in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Ledeuil became interested in cooking, as well as in the descendance of
the homely tomato, quite by accident. Brought up in the country near the
town of Sancerre, a strange sequence of events led him to Paris where he
eventually began studying at the Ecole Superior de la Cuisine Francaise
under the guidance of Guy Savoy.
"I'd always enjoyed cooking and suddenly it became a passion", he told
me. "Provided you always follow the basic rules, preparing food is like a
game with nature. I play with the colours and perfumes around me.
Curiosity pushes me on, and it becomes a journey of discovery. And
fortunately, I have a public who are only too happy to follow me. My food,
whether vegetables, duck, fish or meat, is basically classic French
cooking with a twist of South-East Asia."
William Ledeuil: Brochettes de Saint-Jacques, condiment
from Les Couleurs du Gout, Editions
Photo: Didier Gaillard
The Colours of Taste, is indeed based upon ingredients
encountered during his travels in Thailand, Japan and Vietnam; spices,
herbs and roots hitherto unknown to him, which underline and bring out the
hidden flavours in dishes.
"Cooking is a joy, and a way of expressing myself", he explained. "I've
something to say, and my combinations of colours and presentation all have
their own message. What matters to me is the ingredient itself, the
flavour, freshness and its natural colour, plus its own shape and the form
of the dish it is served in, invariably white. Painting and architecture
are of the utmost importance too."
His restaurant, high, bright and modern, with a glassed-round kitchen
where you can watch the seven young cooks preparing your meal, is in fact
a place where food meets art. Culinary creation is displayed alongside
works by Daniel Humair, who also designed The Kitchen, and other artists
including Jacques Bosser, Thibaut de Reimpré and Tony Soulié. It is, as
the name implies, an art gallery as well as a kitchen, a place where
originality and pleasure come together, for make no mistake, the food
found here is as succulent and as exquisite as any restaurant or palace in
France. Only instead of a bill topping 200 euros a head, the lunch-time
menu, with the same standard of food as is served at night, will set you
back a mere 33 euros, including the wine and coffee. How does he do
Well, his food is neither pretentious nor showy, but seasonal and
fresh. No strawberries at Christmas, nor hefty beef stew in May. And as
for snails with white truffles or pig's head and caviar, please look
elsewhere. As far as service goes, it is both efficient and friendly,
without the encumbrance of a half-dozen waiters fussing around watching
you swallow your food.*
"I use seasonal products, and love vegetables and fruit", he
explained," so the hardest part was to build up my chain of suppliers.
"I'm intransigent on quality and freshness and want only the best of
everything. I know exactly what I need before buying, and when I prepare a
dish, it's all worked out in my head. So when the deliveries arrive early
morning, they must be exactly what I asked for, and the best possible
quality. Then I assemble them, and I have to see on the plate exactly what
I imagined. I rely heavily on large amounts of fruit and vegetables, and
the delay between the time they are picked, and the time they reach the
kitchen must be reduced to the minimum. Even though I have complete trust
in my suppliers, we double check the quality of our produce each
His book, like his restaurant is worth its weight in gold! Attractively
presented, the first page orange, the second green, and yet the next,
burgundy coloured, it's a pleasure to read, while the wonderful
photographs by Didier Gaillard, make it a feast for the eyes. It has, too,
the unusual distinction of chapters headed "Ginger", "Turmeric", "Coconut
Milk", where recipes using these products have been grouped together. How
many times have I come across citronelle, without knowing what to do with
it? Now I know, "Cappuccino fraise-citronelle, émulsion vanille".** Coming
For the adventurous cook, there is even a chapter on "Wasibi", and for
those who don't cook at all, its a plea, in this era of fast-food, to
simply say, stop. Use your imagination, have fun, and use these recipes as
a jumping ground to your own imagination just once in a while. There are
no secret skills to master, soufflés to puff over, nor sauces to stir. The
rules are simple; fresh, fine quality produce treated with respect and a
twist of fantasy.
* At the restaurant of the fabled hotel of the Cala de Volpe in
Sardinia , where they tried to charge 120 euros for a plate of greasy
linguine atop with a few sad shrimps, frozen they tasted too, I was
attended by no less than nine waiters, and grandly presented with three
starched table napkins when each slipped on the floor.
It all rather depends upon whether you want to eat your table napkin or
William Ledeuil's Brochettes de Saint-Jacques, condiment
fenouil-raifort-citronelle. I chose the latter!
"Ze Kitchen Galerie"
4, rue des Grands-Augustins. A 5 minute walk
Tel. (33) 01 44 32 00 32
Les Couleurs du Gout: La Cuisine de William Ledeuil is available for the moment only in
Editions du Seuil
27, rue Jacob
: 2020671964 (October 2004)
or from Amazon.fr.
Click here for the recipe: Cappuccino
fraise-citronelle, émulsion vanille (Strawberry-Citronelle Soup with
vanilla sauce) by William Ledeuil.
Patricia Boccadoro is a senior editor at