when the stars of Parisian gastronomy leave to cultivate their vegetable gardens


These stars of Parisian gastronomy have gone out into nature to reap what they sow, cultivate another relationship with the world and open a restaurant. Life recipes full of philosophy.

Yvelines, Manche, Essonne, Hérault: these four departments have recently welcomed Parisian chefs in need of nature. Or rather in search of vegetable gardens. Cybèle Idelot, Thomas Benady, James Henry and Amélie Darvas opened Ruche, in Gambais, L’Auberge Sauvage, in Servon, Le Doyenné, in Saint-Vrain, and Äponem, L’Auberge du presbytère, in Vailhan. And, courageously, they led the construction of their establishment and the creation of their vegetable garden. Because they didn’t leave town for a change of scenery. Above all, they want to put their hands in the ground and grow the fruits and vegetables they cook. A “reconnection to the living” that they unanimously claim.

Grounds of cohesion

The movement is not entirely surprising. For several years now, chefs have been highlighting the special ties that unite them to their producers. The names of Bachès for citrus fruits, Ospital for cured meats, Casanova for olive oils, Yamashita or Thiébault for vegetables, or even Bertin for herbs have gradually completed the titles of the dishes on their menus. And their curiosity for the work behind the products triggered the desire to go further… and why not have a vegetable garden! But, unlike Alain Passard, who for twenty years has been supplying Arpège, his Parisian restaurant on rue de Varenne, with fruit and vegetables from his gardens in Normandy and Sarthe, these chefs have opened a restaurant a stone’s throw away. of their pea plants.

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In addition to the certainty of having the tomato varieties they dream of, picked at the maturity that suits them, they want to be able to visit their plots every day, contribute to its development while respecting the soil, participate in the harvest, find inspiration… A choice that often goes hand in hand with a change of perspective in terms of team management. At a time when the sector is struggling to recruit, these farmer leaders are also rethinking the ways of working, offering lighter rhythms, while involving their employees in the maintenance of the gardens, which are becoming grounds for cohesion. Would a vegetable garden be the best way to cultivate a new humanity in the kitchen?

Amélie Darvas and Gaby Benicio: Äponem, The Presbytery Inn

With her accomplice Gaby Benicio, Amélie Darvas received her first Michelin star in 2019. Maite Baldi

The first is chef, the second sommelier. Their duo became known at Haï Kaï, their Parisian restaurant. Change of scenery in July 2018. They fall in love with a presbytery in Vailhan, a village in Hérault, and its vegetable garden. Since then, they have been growing their vegetables, their fruits, and a unique energy linked to working with living things, which can be found on the plates of Äponem, their committed table.

Madame Figaro.- Why this desire for a vegetable garden, and since when?
Amélie Darvas and Gaby Benicio.- There is nothing more sacred than cultivating the land and being as close as possible to the living. Especially when you’re a restaurant owner, when you feed people. When we were in Paris, having our vegetable garden was already a dream, but we thought it was impossible.

Between orchard and vegetable garden, L’Auberge du Presbytère, in Vailhan. MS

How did this project materialize?
While on vacation, we came across this presbytery for sale. It was there that we had to put our suitcases… Especially since there was a vegetable garden – now we have seven! To develop it, we got help while deciding to respect local farming methods. Gradually, we invested in other plots, expanded our crops. Our activity does not allow us to be there enough, we have collaborators who take care of it. We now work on living soils, an approach that goes beyond permaculture.

Your link today with this vegetable garden?
Each recipe starts from him. He is the primary inspiration. We go there every day for our crops. The vegetable garden is also a psychological resource. In the fact of sowing, of seeing it grow, there is something magical, which gives hope in life, in the future. And this vibration of the living extends into our kitchen.

1, rue de l’Eglise, 34320 Vailhan. aponem-aubergedupresbytere.fr

Thomas Benady: L.Wild Inn

Chef Thomas Benady now considers nature to be at the heart of his profession. Olivier Marie

The chef, despite the success of his restaurants – La Machine à Coudes, in Boulogne-Billancourt, and Orties, in Paris – has decided to take off! Tired of the city but passionate about products, he approached some of the breeders and fishermen with whom he was already working and planted his vegetable garden in Servon, in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, in the garden of a 16th century presbyterye century. His Auberge Sauvage, opened in June 2020, reflects his obsession with local and “seasonal”.

Madame Figaro.- Why this desire for a vegetable garden, and since when?
Thomas Benady.- My cooking is quite plant-based, and I’ve always had a lot of fun meeting the market gardeners, understanding their work. This desire was therefore anchored in me. As soon as I had the opportunity, I decided to cultivate this dream vegetable garden… even if I had no experience!

Chef Thomas Benady has set up his Auberge Sauvage in the garden of a presbytery. Olivier Marie

How did this project materialize?
When I was informed that there was a business for sale in Servon, I went to see the place, with my family. And it was obvious: we were going to settle there and plant a vegetable garden. We arrived in February 2020. I designed the vegetable garden with a friend who now takes care of it. The pandemic having forced us to review our plans, I had time to learn a little more about the constraints and the pleasures of the vegetable garden…

Your link today with this vegetable garden?
He’s my breath of fresh air and my source of inspiration, even if he’s still young. It takes about three years for a vegetable garden to be truly productive, but it already provides some of our red fruits, beets, Jerusalem artichokes, artichokes, Swiss chard, purple beans… We are self-sufficient in peas, broad beans, garlic and aromatic herbs. There were already fruit trees when we arrived (apple, pear, cherry), and we planted peach and apricot trees.

3, place Saint-Martin, 50170 Servon. aubergesauvage.fr

Cybele Idelot: Hive, at Domaine Les Bruyères

Cybèle Idelot, the head of Hive, at Domaine Les Bruyères, in the heart of the Rambouillet national forest. Anne-Claire Heraud

Locavore and zero waste, the American chef Cybèle Idelot had already proven her passion for nature at her Table de Cybèle, in Boulogne-Billancourt. In 2018, she decided to grow her fruits and vegetables. Finally, the project will be more ambitious with guest rooms and a restaurant where you can eat, sublimated, the products of the vegetable garden just a stone’s throw away.

Madame Figaro.- Why this desire for a vegetable garden, and since when?
Cybele Idelot.- I have always liked the products and developed a direct link with the suppliers. I wanted to grow my own vegetables. With Franck, my husband, we therefore said to ourselves that we were going to find land in the heart of the Rambouillet national forest, a cocoon of unspoiled nature. And we chose this family property. I immediately saw the potential to install our vegetable garden there, but also to open another restaurant, Ruche, and guest rooms.

Cybèle Idelot, the chef of Ruche: “For this spring-summer, we will be 95% self-sufficient for vegetables!” Anne-Claire Heraud

How did this project materialize?
We carried out the work and the creation of the permaculture vegetable garden, developed by a professional. The vegetable garden has evolved over the years. Today it covers almost 2,000 square meters (we started with 1,000) and it is, together with the greenhouse, our main source of supply for the restaurant. For this spring-summer, we will be 95% self-sufficient for vegetables! Currently, we only buy from two nearby producers asparagus and mushrooms.

Your link today with this vegetable garden?
It is at the heart of Ruche’s life and of my cooking. My teams harvest the ingredients for our dishes there every day. And, every Thursday morning, the room and kitchen staff work on it. The vegetable garden then becomes a great team building tool! This provokes strong emotions, which also explain my zero waste approach.

251, avenue de Neuville, Les Pideaux, 78950 Gambais. domainlesbruyeres.com

James Henry and Shaun Kelly: The Deanery

After five years of refining their vegetable garden, the two Australian chefs will finally be able to open their new table Pierre Lucet-Penato

After making a name for himself at Au Passage and his restaurant Bones in Paris, Australian chef James Henry went green in Essonne. It was by chance that he discovered Le Doyenné there. He then decided with Shaun Kelly, another Australian chef, to set up a farm-restaurant-bed and breakfast there. The adventure really began in 2017. The duo are passionate about their vegetable garden cultivated with respect for the soil… so much so that the restaurant has only just opened!

Madame Figaro.- Why this desire for a vegetable garden, and since when?
James Henry.- I have always had a passion for good products. With my suppliers, I discovered the seeds, the way to work the land. In 2016, I visited Le Doyenné, in Saint-Vrain, by chance. A click !

The Doyenné in the heart of Essonne. the Deanery

How did this project materialize?
I had never thought of devoting myself to agriculture. When Shaun and I visited this abandoned estate, we saw the possibility of making a restaurant and developing a vegetable garden. Shaun was passionate about farming, and I created the planting schedule based on the menus I had in mind. The vegetable garden has taken over, and the opening of the restaurant has been postponed! The first two years we were alone, then in 2019 we hired someone to work full time in the vegetable garden, which is half a hectare.

Your link today with this vegetable garden?
The opening of the restaurant is a milestone, the symbiosis I was looking for. In summer, the garden will provide 95% of the fruit and vegetables. In winter, it will be less, we will turn to other producers. Every morning, the cooks harvest the products for the service. They see what nature gives and requires. This vegetable garden encourages respect even in the management: here, the employees work every 35 hours in order to have the possibility of flourishing also outside.

5, rue Saint-Antoine, 91770 Saint-Vrain. ledoyennerestaurant.com

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