A Gift that Keep on Giving
It really is hard to articulate how incredibly intensely we worked in the kitchen at Le Gavroche in London. At the time, 1998, my now-husband, Franck Tessier, having been promoted to sous-chef upon his arrival from the States, with me in tow to work as pastry chef.
There were about 16 of us in the kitchen—I never picked up my head long enough to get an exact count—and people did come and go at an alarming rate, but there was only one among us who seemingly had everything down. Franck ran, sang, chatted and cooked all at the same time in that kitchen.
It was the kind of place where to not hear anything about your work was a good thing. No comment meant that you were doing things properly, actually doing a good job, though that was impossible to imagine.
Though there was little or no praise from owner Chef Michel at Le Gavroche, when Franck’s birthday came around the chef offered a generous gift for all of his hard work: dinner for two at any Michelin-starred restaurant in London. We chose Nobu, owned by the Japanese Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Chef Michel’s favorite restaurant.
We’d attempted to look as presentable as possible that night, but always alas had the feeling that we were on the wrong side of things, that we didn’t really belong at a table being served, and our minds couldn’t help reflecting on the hell that we knew the chefs in the kitchen at Nobu were going through at that moment to deliver our perfect dinners.
Half of our choices were made already, however, by Chef Michel’s recommendations. First thing we knew we had to try: the Crab Gratin.
When we’re cooking for the holidays, we reach for the luxurious ingredients we might not splurge on the rest of the year, and perhaps something a little more indulgent. Try melting leeks or spinach to put under this rich and creamy crabmeat gratin, just to cut through a little bit of the decadence.
This recipe is a variation on a famous dish created by Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa served at Nobu London; we especially enjoy serving it Chez Nous.
150 Main St., Lee
Rachel Portnoy is a pastry chef and co-owner of Chez Nous Bistro in Lee, Massachusetts, with her husband, Franck Tessier. She arrived in Lee 11 years ago and opened Cakewalk Bakery, which she sold in 2005. She now spends her time running the restaurant and developing recipes for delicious desserts that don’t include modern wheat.