A chef and his cuisine: 24 hours in Provence with Benoit Witz

Un Chef, une Cuisine : 24h en Provence avec Benoit Witz.

 

3 questions to discover Benoit Witz...

You’ve been a chef for more than 20 years alongside Alain Ducasse, can you tell us about your career?

I was born in Colmar and it was in a 3-star restaurant in my native Alsace that I started my training and where I discovered gastronomy.

After 2 years with Paul Bocuse in Lyon, I continued my apprenticeship of fine cuisine under Gaston Lenôtre at the Pré Catelan in Paris before joining Alain Ducasse and his team in 1987 for the opening of the restaurant Louis XV at the Hôtel de Paris, a step that marked my career.

For more than 3 years, I was able to learn everything about the Chef’s philosophy – cuisine of the essence.

A few years later and with a bit more experience under my belt, Alain Ducasse entrusted me with the position of chef in his spiritual home, Bastide de Moustiers, where I dove wholeheartedly into inn cuisine from 1996 to 1999.

From there, I went to green Provence and discovered the charms of the Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle where I strive to communicate the importance of “real taste” not only to guests with the cookery classes that I give but also to my team, and I’ve been doing that for 13 years now.

 
(c)David Bordes - L'Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle

 

 
What message do you try to communicate to guests through your cooking?

 Real ingredients, simple cooking, authentic tastes . 

 With those three basic elements, also dear to Alain Ducasse, I communicate the values of respect for the environment and preservation of nature.
Recently, a guest said to me after his meal: “We’ve had a lovely evening; it was simple cuisine, direct and with a lot of flavour.”
Mission accomplished for the team at Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle!


Can you describe a typical day for you at Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle?

 
Against the backdrop of the Provence, a day in the Hostellerie kitchen is intense…

potager provencal 8 am: Things get going in the kitchen together with the team around a cup of coffee, and after a quick rundown of the day before, lots of questions for the day ahead are thrown out.
8.10 am: What ingredients do we have in the kitchen garden? What will be delivered today? What do we need to order? Key points to be able to adapt the dishes on the menu.
8.40 am: And off we go to the Hostellerie’s garden, following the rhythm of the seasons to gather the fruits and vegetables that will make up the menu. This morning for example we gathered courgette blossoms, fresh herbs and lettuce. The tomatoes weren’t completely ripe so we’ll have to find something else.
 


9 am: It’s about time we put in our orders to producers and got the products being delivered.
Local produce is the leitmotif at Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle, so items such as fish, cheese, fruit, and vegetables all come from within a 20 to 30 km radius of the inn.
9.15 am: Fresh products are a must, and so is monitoring their quality! That’s why we systematically check every ingredient that is delivered extremely carefully before putting it under refrigeration.
9.30 am: No time to lose now that all the products are there: we move on to preparing fish, meat, stocks, sauces…

 11.15 am: In a freshly cleaned kitchen we are ready for the lunch service.
11.30 am: A well-deserved little break to gather our strength, and we’re ready.
11.55 am: Uniforms on
12 noon: The first guests arrive, the maître d’ presents the menu to them and the whole team is on the alert.
2.30 pm: After a last few words with some of the guests, the service is over and we clean up the kitchen to be ready to start fresh at 5.30 pm… when the prep for the dinner service begins.
11 pm: A bit of paperwork to take care of and then the lights go out in the Hostellerie kitchen. In summer, guests are still enjoying a turn in the garden…


 
(c)David Bordes - L'Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle

 

Video of the Abbaye restaurant