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The pleasure paradox

The same is true for culinary trends as for flavors. They are innate and indisputable. Better still, they complement one another. Clientele are gourmand and zappers, they can go from one to the other without batting an eyelash. For the savvy hotelier, it's a matter of riding the wave of these sometimes contradictory demands to find the right association between health and pleasure.

Eat better, less, organic, balanced: these fine resolutions have long been confined to the family table. Once across the threshold of the restaurant, all guests want is pleasure. Bye-bye calorie counter, hello head cheese, prime rib and pork treats... This is no longer the case today. Restaurant menus must be able to associate health and pleasure in order to seduce guests who are increasingly aware of the ills of fatty acids and bad eating. Today’s restaurant owners and gastronomes have a common demand: optimize the health equity.Such astronomic prices come as a surprise at a time when affordable haute cuisine is being favored and annex restaurants of chefs, with Jean-Georges Vongerichten or Alain Ducasse in the lead, are flourishing around the world. But pleasure no longer lies just a paradox away…Treatment centers are, of course, the first concerned by this trend. This phenomenon is not so new however as "great slimming cuisine" was brought to it heights by Michel Guérard more than 30 years ago. Following in his footsteps, his successors continue to create low-calorie-high flavor menus. Thus, Patrick Jarno, chef at the thalassotherapy Accor Thalassa in the Quibéron, developed a highly renowned dietetic cuisine. His credo? "Eat well, eat healthy, eat happy". At Evian’s Royal Resort, Michel Lentz concocts a re-energizing cuisine for the hotel’s spa with “synergetic cuisine”. This innovative concept presents itself as the result of teaching inspired by nutritherapy, phytotherapy and Chinese and Indian medecine.Banishing sauce bases to prevent superfluous shapes, this effort is not just for wellness specialists. This demand is finding itself transplanted to urban centers where busy businessmen are in search of nutritional excellence. Major cities are seeing restaurant brands flourish that make it their raison d’être: Léon or Itsu in London, Elixir Juice Bar or Energy Kitchen in New York, Cojean and Soup&Juice in Paris and even Exki. This Belgian brand’s success story began at the beginning of the new millennium. Since then, Exki has opened more than thirty restaurants in the Benelux, France and Italy. Its win-win formula: quality fast food that places the accent on balance, fair trade and organic.The organic wave remains a strong current that no restaurant can escape. And this wave has many shockwaves resulting in "Raw Food" in the New World. But don’t go thinking that barbarian and carnivorous pleasures have become trendy... The raw trend - fruits and vegetables only – uses products that are authentically gastronomic. The art of preparing them has been raised to an art by Charlie Trotter. This multiple award-winning chef officiates in Chicago, but also at the One&Only Palmilla in Mexico. In 2003 he wrote "Raw" with Rosanne Klein. His recipes such as Romanesque cabbage couscous with curry oil or "bleeding heart" radish raviolis with yellow tomato juice are inspiring an entire generation of budding chefs. And the Raw movement now has its own school in London.In light of such an overall trend, city hotels are turning towards "fine and good" eating. The Ring Hotel, the new 5* in Vienna launched by JJW Hotels, has adopted Aroma cuisine, which uses herbs and essential oils, the cornerstone of its restaurant called At Eight. And yet, if we take the hotel-restaurant owner’s point of view, is it enough to position oneself as an apostle of health cuisine in order to be successful? Is it so simple to find a restaurant concept that fully meets guests’ needs? And yet it would be necessary to define it precisely. Just as the tourist may travel low-cost and sleep at a 5*, the gourmet’s tastebuds expect an eclectic program: Monday "world food", Tuesday "easy eating"; Wednesday and Thursday "fusion food" and "street food"; weekend "bistronomy" or "slow food"; followed by a "detox" menu on the day of rest.Guests are paradoxical; they seem to like everything and the opposite. Organic and vegetarian restaurants are fashionable? At the same time, Chikalicious, P*ong or Room 4 Dessert, restaurants offering menus that are 100% desserts, are opening their doors in New York. And pastry chefs are being honored more than ever as the blooming aura in France of Pierre Hermé or Christophe Michalak, Plaza Athénée pastry chef who was designated World Champion proves. In the image of chocolate and macaroons, it is at this time for lightness that butter is finding its way back to the table: Joël Robuchon’s, Olivier Roellinger’s the George V’s or the Meurice’s are embellished by Jean-Yves Bordier’s butter. This master buttermaker from Saint-Malo has succeeded in making his seaweed butter and smoked salt butter into a true delicacy.Other paradoxes? Mineral water is all the rage while alcohol has lost its place? Restaurants with a bacchic leaning are growing in number like Il Vino in Paris where guests choose their wine rather than their dish. Eating too salty? In keeping with the trend for protected origins, a choice of salts is beginning to appear at restaurants, black lava salt from Hawaii or pink from the Himalaya. Eating too fatty? With the snack trend, club sandwiches and burgers are the stars of the times. In the United Kingdom, the chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen is an upscale competitor of McDonald's, and is present in all the major cities in addition to 23 outlets in London. This brand banks on the quality of its Angus beef and the originality of bold combinations – indeed the land is also the king-dom of lamb with mint! – such as the Chicken-Camembert-Cranberry burger or Beef-Mango-Ginger burger.Hotels are less iconoclastic but just as enthusiastic with regard to these best sellers. The new bar menu at the Regency at the Prince de Galles in Paris (Luxury Collection) has put them in the limelight: the Caprice de Star (foie gras-beef filet-girolles), the classic Love me Tender as well as Absolutely Fabulous (a French BLT) and the Lobster Club Sandwich. Great chefs are also working hard to revise these monuments to “junk food”. The Fast Good concept created by Ferran Adria for the chain NH Hoteles offers a new view of burgers, which find themselves garnished with arugula and fries made in olive oil. In New York, Daniel Boulud, who made the French Burger – meat and foie gras – one of his signature dishes, is opening his own burger bar this summer in the East Village.Also in the United States, Hubert Keller takes the prize for the most expensive burger in the world with the Fleurburger 5,000. 5,000 as in $5,000, the price of this emblem of American cuisine at the Fleur de Lys, the luxury restaurant at the Mandala Bay in Las Vegas. The recipe is simple but rich: ground Kobe beef topped by a slice of sautéed foie gras, truffles and Périgueux truffle sauce, washed down by a bottle of Château Petrus 90 served in Ichendorf Brunello stemware. A special touch: for that price the guest may take the glass home...Such astronomic prices come as a surprise at a time when affordable haute cuisine is being favored and annex restaurants of chefs, with Jean-Georges Vongerichten or Alain Ducasse in the lead, are flourishing around the world. But pleasure no longer lies just a paradox away…

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