It turns out that my favourite Paris concierge, Adrian Moore at the Mandarin Oriental, has been leading a double life. Over the past four years, when he wasn’t pulling strings to get me the last table at Septime or the first available navy-blue box-leather Hermès Birkin I so coveted, he has been snooping into the refrigerators of Europe’s top chefs. The result – a collaboration with photographer Carrie Solomon – is a book called Inside Chefs’ Fridges, Europe.
Who, I wondered when I first heard about the project, would share Moore’s interest in the humble fridge, even of the world’s greatest culinary talents? But when the book arrived, I was so engrossed in the profile of my newest foodie crush – Lisbon’s José Avillez of Belcanto and Minibar – that I skipped dinner. Who knew Avillez and I had so much in common? We both snack on cherries, mangoes and apples… Although, admittedly, you won’t find the family-farm-fresh mandarin oranges in my fridge, nor that delectable-looking homemade courgette and sweet-potato soup.
This sneak peak into the domestic lives of chefs who cumulatively hold nearly 60 Michelin stars is an unexpectedly revelatory tome. So much so that I’ve ordered another two dozen copies as Christmas gifts. “Opening those refrigerator doors takes us inside the minds of these geniuses,” says Moore. “And shows that they are like everyone else. Frenchie chef and new father Gregory Marchand’s fridge is full of supermarket buys as well as high-end products. And nearly all have Heinz ketchup in there, as well as mayonnaise and plenty of Asian sauces.” A thorough read of the book does indeed reveal that Europe’s greatest chefs like nothing better than to lacquer on a layer of soy, hoisin or fish sauce to sex up a meal.
Digging deeper into the domestic lives of these gourmet gods, Moore and Solomon asked all 40 for recipes of what they actually eat at home. Osteria Francescana chef Massimo Bottura’s deceptively simple Parmigiano-Reggiano risotto recipe, for example, has evolved over 10 years; and Moore says that “truly anyone” can make Septime’s Bertrand Grébaut’s favourite chicken (second picture), in which chilli pepper and cherry tomatoes are added to butcher-bought roast chicken. Indeed, my copy already shows evidence of novice attempts to replicate the spicy tomatillo, Parmesan and lime popcorn by Madrid’s DiverXO chef David Muñoz.
Inside Chefs’ Fridges, Europe reveals more than a few salacious secrets: Yam T’cha’s Adeline Grattard’s penchant for fresh mare’s milk; the mouldy tomatoes of stonecutter-turned-visionary Paris chef Inaki Aizpitarte of Le Chateaubriand; the frozen flies found in the fridge of Danish scientist-cum-chef Rasmus Kofoed; and Le Suquet chef Sébastien Bras’ stash of gyromitra mushrooms, which turn poisonous if improperly cooked. Here in Paris I plan to hunt down the Moroccan absinthe leaves that Fatéma Hal of La Mansouria swears by, not so much for enhancing taste but to ease muscle pain, jet lag and to “calm the spirit”.