24 february 2017
The head in the stars in Manigod, at Marc Veyrat’s
The head of the Aravis massif returns to the gastronomic scene with his Maison des bois which, since its opening a few weeks ago, has won two stars in the Michelin 2017.
The genius of alpine pastures. The delight of the Aravis. The pope of wild herbs. The apostle of organic food. The giant with the black silhouette. The terrible child of Manigod and the most starred chef in history is back. The bells ring on the plateau of Beauregard to announce the return of the prodigal son, this cook who dreams to be a farmer, on his family lands where he comes from is reopening his Maison des bois The only cook to have cumulated, twice, the three Michelin stars and the score of 20/20 at the Gault & Millau comes from far away. From past glory. From the almost bankruptcy. From hatred of the less good and less communicative. From the anonymity found after a terrible skiing accident that left him heavily handicapped.
Marc Veyrat returns from all this to open his dream farm alpages. A concept that combines restaurant and accommodation. And which has just reborn from the ashes. Because like a jackdaw who dreamed of a Savoyard phoenix, Marc Veyrat has rebuilt his den after a fire that ravaged the house in 2015. He rebuilt it. Improved it. It is even larger, which causes some teeth to cringe in this little village of Manigod where there is a Veyrat behind each door. The cousinades are not always friendly, and we do not always appreciate the success of the good-tempered character who speaks loudly of what he thinks. But it is there, back in this winter of 2017, with this establishment, probably the most successful of all.
“My tables at Veyrier-du-Lac or Megeve were good, but they were only sketches. Here I touch my absolute dream: to have a farm where I can work in autarky. We produced almost everything on spot, as we did back in time. This is my greatest pride … “, assures the chef who tends to become more and more vegetarian and grows stronger his love of wild herbs. Soon, when he has replaced a recalcitrant door, one should enter his domain via a tunnel laid out as a food conservatory. The happy guests will then discover the stalls on which the fruits and vegetables harvested before the first snows wait for the cook to come. Grandmother’s jars on shelves are filled with preserves. Herbs and plants are frozen in nitrogen to restore their flavors throughout the year. A fishpond with lake fishes. A salting-room and a smoking-room, where all the parts of the pig are hung. A workshop where he makes his cow tomme is next to a fine cheese cellar of all the Aravis cousins. The country bread, cooked in the great oven of the court, is waiting in a maze filled with wheat bran.
Along the way in this luxurious pantry, we get mouth-watering and we discover the commitment of the chef against « junk food” via inscriptions on the walls that boast kitchen leftovers and biological products.. When sitting down at the table in the beautiful room with windows overlooking the Mont Blanc, it is difficult to imagine the work it took to transform these vegetables, meats and fish into dishes all more inventive than the others.
To sit down with Marc Veyrat is to attend a spectacle dinner. If the chefs have long since abandoned their stoves to pass a head in the restaurant room, the Savoyard pushes coquetry to its extreme by being throughout the meal with its customers. He goes from table to table, tells the same stories and anecdotes that the public expects. He cuts a piece of cheese and wipes his knife with his big fingers of plowman forgetting that he is a starred chef. And the room loves it. La Maison des bois pushes the concept of a gastronomic table far away.
It goes from the Opinel knife that you are invited to wipe with bread between each dish, to this empty plate that is placed in front of you and that we must turn over to discover a cream desert. “My grandfather had only one knife, which he wiped with bread, and he turned his soup plate over to eat the cheese. Here too, “laughs Marc Veyrat, proud of his good joke. But on the plate, it is high gastronomy: yogurt of virtual foie gras and fragrant myrrh; Potimarron soup, crispy chestnuts, nutmeg, eggshell cookie; Leman trout cooked in spruce bark; New smoked tartiflette with acha of the mountains and salmon; Nitrogen glazed candy with forest aromas ; Puffed wit boletus pear, etc.
So, yes, Manigod is far away. And the Maison des bois even further, at the top of a hill that is reached by a road badly cleared in winter. So yes, a meal with Marc Veyrat is expensive. Count 395 euros for the evening menu baptized, in all modesty, as the good man knows how to do.
“The great feast in the stars”. The Sunday menu, served on Sunday for lunch only, is more affordable: 295 euros. But as much for the show than for the cuisine, these are prices that stand for an exceptional meal that is offered once in a lifetime. Especially since Marc Veyrat assumes to leave again to the conquest of his stars. And already, a few weeks after its opening, its restaurant reaps two stars in the Michelin 2017. A fair grade. Giving him the three stars right away would not have been reasonable. First of all, because a sacred monster like Veyrat needs a challenge not to be bored. The hunt for the last star will therefore delight him. And also because his cuisine and indoor service, however tasty, deserve some adjustments to reach the peaks.
La Maison des bois also offers accommodation in small chalets. All the comfort is there, but this time the prices are a little exaggerated: between 750 euros per room and 1560 euros per night in a cottage for four people. A little spicy for accommodations that do not offer such incredible benefits. But practical when you know that a dinner at Marc Veyrat rarely ends before 1 am! And sleeping on the premises allows to taste an absolutely royal and hyper copious breakfast (for which it will still cost 80 euros per person …). The price to pay to climb the peaks of gastronomy and graze a living myth …