Great-grandson to reinvent iconic three-star French restaurant

[OUCHES, France] The Troisgros restaurant, a veritable shrine to France's haute cuisine, is pulling out of the town it put on the map thanks to the three Michelin stars it has boasted since 1968.

The move out of the central town of Roanne to a rural village just eight kilometres (five miles) away may seem modest, but to the Troisgros dynasty it is a sea change.

"It's not an uprooting," said Michel Troisgros, 58, who took over the reins in 1996. "On the contrary, we are putting down new roots." For Michel's 30-year-old son Cesar, the great-grandson of the restaurant's founder who is being groomed to head the new kitchen, Saturday's move is nothing short of a rite of passage.

"He will be another man in another place," said Michel, whose father Pierre and uncle Jean helped start the nouvelle cuisine craze in the 1960s.

But Cesar "is not an heir like I was," Michel said, praising his son's "effervescent creative powers".

"He'll run a kitchen operation of his own conception." Cesar, the second of Michel's three children, admitted: "I feel more at ease than I did in Roanne in a kitchen with more than 80 years of history." The bespectacled young man with a short-cropped beard like his father's began his training at the Paul Bocuse Institute along with his younger brother Leo.

After stints with top chefs Michel Rostang in Paris, the Roca brothers in Spain and Thomas Keller in California, Cesar started work at the family restaurant six years ago.

"I'm really proud of what my parents achieved and... what my grandparents did," he said. "It's not easy for me, because I tell myself that if I can't do things just as well I shouldn't do them at all." Cesar's great-grandparents Jean-Baptiste and Marie started the restaurant in 1930 at a prime location across from the rail station in Roanne, some 100 kilometres from France's gastronomic capital, Lyon.

Cesar's mother Marie-Pierre said his approach to cuisine is "obviously more modern than Michel's. He's more inspired by the countryside and very involved with our suppliers." Michel said the Maison Troisgros decided to move out of the town because it wanted more space, land to grow its own ingredients and better light.

The new, ultra-modern restaurant in a 19th-century manor estate sitting on 17 hectares (42 acres) of land opens Saturday in the sleepy village of Ouches, home to fewer than 1,500 people.

Michel, Marie-Pierre and Cesar served their last meals at the Roanne restaurant - where one could enjoy the likes of rabbit, crab and mint bisque or white asparagus with chives, walnut and saffron with lemon zest - on January 1.

The family invested eight million euros (S$12 million) in the new establishment, which includes a hotel with 15 rooms.

Floor-to-ceiling windows give guests the impression of eating al fresco amid sculptured steel pillars evoking trees. The restaurant's two wings flank a towering old oak tree.

While the lunch menu will dip in price to 140 euros from the old restaurant's 205 euros, dinners will be as high as 410 euros.

The family also runs restaurants in nearby Iguerande and in Paris, as well as in Tokyo and Moscow.


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