In this series, columnist Sibylle Eschapasse interviews some of France’s top chefs, the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France.
57 going on 24
Executive chef, The Union Club of the City of New York; president, American and Canadian delegation, Maîtres Cuisiniers de France.
Years of experience with French cuisine:
57 (“since I was born”)
Maître Cuisinier de France since:
Sibylle Eschapasse: What does it mean to you to be a Maître Cuisinier de France, a most envied title?
Jean-Louis Dumonet: I am very proud to be part of such a group of chefs. Most of our elders were our chefs when we started, and a lot of them became mentors. It is great to have followed their path and to be part of the same group now. It is why we have the mission to do the same with younger chefs and to follow the Maître Cuisiniers de France’s motto: “to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development.”
Ms. Eschapasse: Why did you choose to become a chef?
Mr. Dumonet: I think it came naturally to me. When I was a kid, my dad was a chef already and owned a restaurant in the countryside near Poitiers. I spent the first 5 to 6 years of my life there with my grandmother, who was cooking for 6 to 10 people [in the family] every day. We were cooking chicken from our henhouse, and rabbit as well. So I learned how to kill them, and pluck or skin them. Then my dad moved to Paris, and I cooked with him every time I could, during vacations or breaks.
Ms. Eschapasse: If a close friend were to describe your cooking in three words, what would they be?
Mr. Dumonet: I would like him to say good, generous, and full of love.
Ms. Eschapasse: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Mr. Dumonet: Orchestra conductor and musician.
Ms. Eschapasse: How would you define French cuisine?
Mr. Dumonet: Vast! It can be very simple or sophisticated. Very tasty with great products, respectful of the ingredients and flavors.
Ms. Eschapasse: Of France’s many regional cuisines, which do you prefer to cook?
Mr. Dumonet: You know, France is a small country, but we have the chance to have many regions and the great chance, too, to have four seasons, so I like to cook [the cuisine of the] Mediterranean in summer; central France in fall; eastern France and game in winter, as well as southern France with black truffles; and Loire Valley and Charentes in spring. Each season has its proper ingredients, as the region does.
Ms. Eschapasse: Tell us about the recipe you chose.
Mr. Dumonet: [It’s] sea scallops with porcini. We have the chance to have both in the same season in New York, in the fall. It is also one of my favorite scallop dishes (as well as my wife Karen’s, too). It is a mix of Charentes-Maritime, next to the sea, with the scallops, and porcini from Poitou-Charentes.
Roasted Diver Sea Scallops with Oregon Porcini and Foam
2 pounds fresh and firm porcini mushrooms (or cèpes)
1 clove garlic
1 glass Noilly Prat dry white vermouth
3 ounces heavy cream
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/4 pounds jumbo diver scallops (3 or 4 per person)
2 ounces butter
1/2 bunch of flat parsley
1/2 quart of chicken or vegetable stock
1. Clean the mushrooms with a wet towel. Set aside two nice and firm ones for shaving. Cut the remaining mushrooms into 3/4-inch squares.
2. Sauté mushrooms in grapeseed oil without coloration or salt. Add the chopped shallots and garlic. Reserve a little for plating.
3. For the remaining mushroom-onion mixture, cook until it takes on a nice, light brown color. Add the Noilly Prat, the cream, and the stock. Cook for two minutes, then blend. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.
4. Optional: To make porcini foam, pour mixture into an ISI gourmet whip.
5. Place in a hot bain-marie to keep warm until ready to plate.
For the Fresh Scallops and the Plating:
1. In a hot sauté pan, add some olive oil and cook the scallops on one side for 3 minutes. To finish, place them in the oven at 350F for 4 minutes.
2. In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan and reheat the reserved sautéed porcini. Add the chopped parsley.
3. On the plates, ladle some porcini cream (or foam, if using the ISI gourmet whip), then top with the sautéed porcini and the scallops.
4. Shave some raw porcini on top. Serve immediately.
Recipe by Jean-Louis Dumonet
You can watch Dumonet demonstrate the full recipe on “Celebrity Taste Makers” on Saturday, Dec. 24 at 6 p.m on PIX11.
Sibylle Eschapasse is from Paris and lives in New York City. In addition to working at the United Nations, she contributes to various publications and is the host of “Sibylle’s Top French Chefs,” a series being aired on “Celebrity Taste Makers.” She may be reached at [email protected]