It was 1980, and we had been invited to dine at Guy Savoy’s eponymous restaurant on the Rue Troyon, in Paris’s 17th, not far from the Eiffel Tower. This was a treat, our first visit to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris; a treat to have the opportunity to go Michelin in Paris, a double treat as we were guests of my wife’s distant, but close relation, an inhabitant of Paris for most of her adult life. Margie Murray was a legend in my wife’s family, a journalist reporting life in France from the city of light.
My memory of the place is threefold: of a modern space in a room that was cosy, dimly lit, but providing the right amount of illumination for the brilliant food that came to us just when we needed it; of Margie’s grammatically sound French, provided with a rich Australian accent; and of the plate of ice cream that reduced any other ice cream I’d had to that moment to dust.
Guy Savoy was then a two-star Michelin chef. Since 2002 his Paris restaurant has reached the pinnacle of three stars, with an outpost in Los Angeles gaining two stars.
In 2015, the restaurant moved to the top of the oldest institution in Paris, the French Mint (the Monnaie de Paris), an institution created in 864—yes, that’s almost 1200 years ago.
Some years back, I came across a cookbook by Guy Savoy, published in French only with the title Vos petits plats par un grand, a title playing on the words “petits” and “grand”. The title doesn’t translate literally, but figuratively as “simple favourites by a great chef”.
What I love about this book, and my memories of that visit all those years ago, is that Guy Savoy may be a three-star general, but he’s also a cook who understands the beauty of real family food, comfort food, if you like. The cover of the book, (pictured) tells the story of the contents beautifully, a wonderful mix of food anybody can cook, and love.
Yolaine Corbin jumped at the opportunity to recreate the cover dish. “It reminded me so much of school,” she said. “At school, we had a three-course menu each day, and often we had baked tomatoes, stuffed with meat or with rice and vegetables. At primary school, we’d all sit down and share plates.” Crikey, that’s a long way from an Aussie offering of meat pie and sauce, and maybe a salad roll. No wonder the French revere food, and family feasts.