5 stars

Ritz Hotel Paris A trio of talent

They have been appointed the immense honor – and the grand challenge – of reviving the cuisine of the Ritz in Paris, which has been closed for renovation since August of 2012: Nicolas Sale, François Perret, and Estelle Touzet, - head chef, pastry chef, and head sommelier in respective order, are eager to add a new page to the story of this iconic landmark hotel of the place Vendôme.
We held this joint interview a few weeks prior to the re-opening.

What is your state of mind at the moment while awaiting the “new” Ritz to re-open mid February?

Estelle Touzet : We are very excited and can’t wait for the doors to open at this splendid establishment that will be a new experience for all three of us.
Nicolas sale: It’s extraordinary to be able to participate in a human adventure of this sort. We’ve put our hearts into achieving excellence on every level.
François Perret: Our heads are overflowing but we love it and look forward to setting it free and sharing it all at the opening.

Why, according to you, have you been chosen by the Ritz?

E.T.: I think that above and beyond our professional experience, the direction wanted to make personality and human contact a top priority. It’s what keeps us going every day and what has brought us here together to continue to make the gold of the Paris Ritz shine.

What does the Paris Ritz mean to you?

E.T.: It is THE ultimate symbol of Paris. The Ritz, it’s what you imagine when you think about Parisian luxury. It’s an iconic establishment with a tradition, a history, a past, and a heritage of our French patrimony and our gourmet culinary culture.
F.P.: It’s a hotel with a lot of memories. Today, we realize that when we contact our suppliers, they never ask for our address. That goes to show that everyone knows the Ritz!

How does one impose one’s personal style and tastes while still respecting the history and heritage of the hotel?

E.T.: Precisely because we do not impose anything at all. We share ideas and we talk it all over together. We are really open to hearing about what’s been done in the past and what we would like to create new together. There is no individualism, it’s very much a group synergy. We adapt to various needs as they arise and to the DNA of the establishment.

How do you interact with your three fields of specialization?

E.T.: For the moment we put all our ideas into a big pot, we simmer them over a low fire, or sometimes a slightly higher fire to activate our brain cells a bit more. And then we gradually reduce the sauce to make it concentrated, savory, authentic, and unique.
F.P.: We might even do some flambés!
E.T.: Yes! The way we function and work is all about communicating and sharing. We need to be sensitive to one another’s particular personality in order to enhance each other’s work.
N.S.: Respecting the past is important, but we each have our own personalities, our desire is to follow in the footsteps of the Ritz, which in fact was actually a precursor in a number of areas. Our wish is to do what has not yet been done and to leave our mark in the great history of the Paris Ritz.

Ritz Paris

15 Place Vendôme, 75001, Paris Phone : 01 43 16 30 30 www.ritzparis.com
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What are the advantages and disadvantages of working for a place so prestigious?

N.S.: We are of a generation that uses disadvantages to create advantages. These days, we are very human interaction oriented, there’s not one personality more dominant than another, which is very important. For me, an establishment like the Ritz is above all about teamwork.
F.P.: Einstein said: “As long as we have a head like a hammer, we can see problems in the form of nails.” That’s the way we see things!

Estelle, you are in charge of 40,000 bottles of which several thousands are grand crus? How does one go about familiarizing oneself with a wine cellar so important?

By doing inventory and by counting all the bottles one by one! Physically doing an inventory allows me to fully own my heritage of the cellar.

What are the criteria that a wine must meet before becoming part of the Ritz wine cellar?

There is an intrinsic quality to wine, depending on the chef’s cuisine and some of my personal preferences. But one must think about the client above all else. One does not create a wine menu to please oneself, but to please the guests.

Nicolas and François, how do you both plan to please the clients at the Paris Ritz?

N.S.: With emotion, humility, and a product that is pure and simple. Today clients like things that are real, sincere, accessible, and understandable. Generally speaking in cuisine, simplicity is the best way to go. There is no need to complicate something that is already exceptional on its own. And in addition, listening to the client’s needs is important, we should be able to answer to all their requests.
F.P.: We work with the client as top priority all the while trying to bring our own personal touch, in this mythical place with a rich background. Therefore, we also need to keep in mind the classics of French gastronomy.

Is this because the Ritz has been and continues to be all about French gastronomy?

N.S.: The Ritz is an institution, from its emblematic chefs to its Escoffier school. For me, I am only the tenth chef. In 120 years of existence, there have only been ten chefs. This proves that it is a family run business that takes time to do things right, which is reassuring for our clients. This is not to say that we are anchored to the past, but that we are taking the reins. Me, I am taking the reins of Michel Roth, for me this heritage is primordial.
F.P.: I also think that it is very important that the Ritz is independent. We really feel this from the inside: the Paris Ritz is a home above all, before it is a hotel.

What can we wish for you for the opening day?

E.T.: That the clients are as happy and enthusiastic as we are!

By Solenn Cosotti - Published the

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