04 November 2009

The Passion for Perfection

There are few Michelin-starred restaurants in France whose cuisine is that of traditional of French cooking. There are even fewer whose chef personally markets in the mornings, runs a kitchen staff of Asian sou-chefs and overseas a dining room run by a three-man show.

In the small town of La Turbie, wedged between Eze and Monte Carlo on the French Riviera, Hostellerie Jerome welcomes seasoned and adventurous diners into a world of subtle charm and high cuisine. The restaurant is part of a hotel, both of which are housed in a former convent. Wood panels remain and are balanced with crisp white linens and water color paintings of flowers and fruits on the vaulted ceilings and menus.

A trio of French waitstaff wear multiple hats, from host to translator and sommelier as well as server and clearer all evening long with a smile. What I noticed immediately was our server's enthusiasm for being there, entertaining us while taking care of us. It was intoxicating. He spoke of Chef Cirino's dedication: early to rise, last to rest. That he had a manic passion in the way he lived and worked. I could see that our waiter's admiration was filled with inspiration. Before I could jokingly ask, "so, what don't you like about Chef?" we heard shouting coming through the kitchen door. It was the chef.

Roughly translated into a PG version, and with laughter throughout the dining room, the chef was angry that the sauce was taking too long. Only in France! And that was for us, the patrons! This was the moment where the chef's passion met madness. I would take it any day for the exquisitely prepared and decadent dinner we indulged in.

Upon leaving the restaurant, I looked into the kitchen through a small glass window. The chef was a vision. A conductor, face and body taught with precision, leading his orchestra through a furious symphony. It was clear that the passion from the top engages and draws each of us in and why shouldn't it? We should so lucky to be inspired everyday.

Hostellerie Jerome, 20 rue Comte de Cessole, 06320 La Turbie, France; +33 4 92 41 51 51

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