‘Chef’s Table’ Season 3 Is a Culinary Tour de France

'Chef's Table' Season 3 Is a Culinary Tour de France

If you skipped town this weekend to lie on the beach or hike a mountain, you have some catching up to do on the third season of the  Chef’s Table. This season, instead of hopping from the depths of the Amazon rainforest with Alex Atala to Grant Achatz’s pristine kitchen at Alinea in Chicago, these four episodes take place in one country: France.

“In a lot of ways, it’s sort of the mecca of food,” David Gelb, creator and director of the series, explained in May. “So many of the techniques that are standard in kitchens across the world come from France.”

While the season focuses on one location, the chefs featured range from Alain Passard, the man behind the esteemed three-Michelin-starred L’Arpège, to Michel Troisgros, the grandson of the pioneer of nouvelle French cooking, to Adeline Grattard, who blends Chinese and French cooking at her restaurant yam’Tcha and is the only woman featured this season. But perhaps the most unlikely candidate of the set is Alexandre Couillon, a chef whose restaurant, La Marine, is on the island of Noirmoutier, which at high tide can be disconnected from mainland France.

When Couillon took over the restaurant from his parents in 1999, he started cooking “simple food [like] traditional fish soups,” he explains via email. But after receiving his first Michelin star six years later, everything changed. He shifted to a more futuristic approach to food. In the years since, he has relaxed into a style that is forward thinking, celebrating the flavors of his small island, its terroir: “We want to cook sea and our earth. It was a realization that we have this all around. My food is alive,” he says.

When Couillon took over the restaurant from his parents in 1999, he started cooking “simple food [like] traditional fish soups,” he explains via email. But after receiving his first Michelin star six years later, everything changed. He shifted to a more futuristic approach to food. In the years since, he has relaxed into a style that is forward thinking, celebrating the flavors of his small island, its terroir: “We want to cook sea and our earth. It was a realization that we have this all around. My food is alive,” he says.

The episode portrays Couillon as an artist who is willing to throw away everything when a new, better idea strikes—even if it means scrapping hours of work. When asked how he creates dishes, he says it ranges from immediate inspiration to a year-long process. “Sometimes, I create immediately when I walk on my island and pick vegetables in my garden. But sometimes I have an idea that is not exactly what I thought it would be,” he says.

For viewers who speak French, it’s a bit comical to hear Couillon’s name, which translates to “moron,” spoken aloud. While the episode recalls the chef being teased as a child, he embraces it now, “because in France, it is easy to remember that name.” After watching this season, it’s a name few are likely to forget.

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