Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bouchee's Carmel legacy in solid hands

French-born master chef Andre Lemaire doesn't stray far from the classics
The Monterey County Herald

Like many others who have traveled the world in search of Nirvana, Andre Lemaire finally settled in Carmel with a contented sigh. After 50 years working as a chef — from Paris, to Moscow, to Corsica, to Palm Beach, to Las Vegas, to Fresno and beyond — Lemaire hopes he won't ever have to pack his knives again.

"Who wouldn't love it here?" asks Lemaire, 65, who delights in calling himself an "old guy with old bones" who wouldn't know what to do if he retired.

Lemaire is the chef-owner of Andre's Bouchee Bistro and Wine Bar, adding his name 10 months ago to the established and esteemed Bouchee Bistro owned by David Fink (Aubergine, Cantinetta Luca).

It's a family affair for the Lemaires, with Andre's son Stephan helping behind the stove during lunch and waiting tables at night, and wife Elizabeth working the front of the house along with her daughter Lauren.

Some of the previous staff remains, including wine director Dimitri Ruban, who helped construct the restaurant's 5,000-bottle, 620-label wine list, an eclectic collection of French and Californian varietals.

The food is classic French mixed with what Lemaire calls "California flair." Not a big fan of nouvelle cuisine taken to the extreme — "Who wants to eat monkfish with chocolate sauce?" he moans — Lemaire sticks close to tradition. Like-minded diners will enjoy the menu of foie gras, duck confit, escargot, sweetbreads and cassoulet.
Lemaire hails from the old school, with pupils who see snails as more than garden pests, believe foie gras is healthier than a cheeseburger, and who ensure longevity by drinking a glass — or three — of red wine every day.

The menu is small, with fewer than 10 starters (including soups and salads), five fish entrées and five meat entrées, along with a few daily specials. Dessert includes a classic cheese plate, along with sweets such as profiteroles, cr me bržlée and apple tart.

Read the full story here.

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