Friday, December 18, 2015
One of France’s top chefs whose food was served at the Paris climate conference was last week fined €100,000 (£73,000) for damaging the environment around his Alpine restaurant.
Marc Veyrat was among five top Gallic chefs who cooked up an “eco-menu” fit for the 150-odd heads of state gathered outside Paris earlier this month to seal a historic climate deal.
French diplomats surmised that one of the reasons that previous attempts had failed was because the food was not good enough to inspire the negotiators.
Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, described the meal at the restaurant, situated in a nature reserve, as “a lunch that reflects environmental and French gastronomic excellence … without ostentation".
But in an ironic ruling, a court in Annecy, south-eastern France, on Friday found Mr Veyrat guilty of cutting down 7,000 sq m (75,000 sq ft) of forest around his hotel-restaurant La Maison des Bois in Manigod, in Haute-Savoie, without authorisation and drying up 10,000 sq m of wetland making large parts of it "sterile".
The court gave the revered 65-year-old – never without his trademark black Savoyard hat – three months to restore the damaged areas to their original state, in particular a bog that is waterlogged six months per year. If he does not comply with the court ruling within the time period, he will be forced to pay a €3,000 per day fine.
Photo: Getty Images
La Maison des Bois, a chalet-type hotel-restaurants whose rooms cost €520 to €1,250 per night, dramatically burned down in 2013 and Mr Veyrat has promised to reopen in some form by next summer.
Awarded the top three Michelin stars for two of his establishments and 20 out of 20 by Gault&Millault, Mr Veyrat is considered by some the world's finest chef. He specialises in traditional dishes, with lots of wild herbs and a little "molecular gastronomy", chemistry-inspired recipes that produce new textures such as emulsions in cuisine.
On his website, he insists his cuisine “takes into account the protection of the environment, our source of life”. But the local forestry commission said the environmental damage done in clearing land to build a children’s play area, a botanical garden, greenhouses and beehives had “rendered the land sterile in certain plots”.
In court, he said he was “sorry for everything that’s happened”.
Photo: Getty Images
“I am not above the law. Everyone can make mistakes, even me,” he said adding that his “fundamental errors” were done “in good faith”.
Mr Veyrat, had volunteered to cook the climate conference lunch with four other top chefs, all Michelin-starred. The 75-minute meal he prepared with Yannick Alleno, Alexandre Gauthier, Nicolas Masse and Christelle Brua began with a "Modern Freneuse turnip soup with scallops cooked in floral steam", followed by "free-range poultry from Licques, stuffed celery preserve with truffles and parsleyed creamed spinach", according to the menu.
The cheese course was an organic Reblochon from France's Mont Blanc region, and dessert was a traditional Paris Brest cake with stewed citrus fruit and a "light praline cream".
The wine selection included a white Meursault 1er Cru "Santenots" 2011, a red Domaine Marquis d'Angerville Chateau Beychevelle 2009, and the Champagne a Philipponnat Cuvee 1522 – with a fruit juice option for teetotallers.
"There are no showy or very expensive ingredients," said Mr Alleno.
"We aim to impress with our cooking instead."