SENSE AND SENSIBILITY IN CUISINE
Laurent and Martine Petit are walkers and love the Bauges highlands. They have a fusional relationship with nature and the Great Outdoors. Martine is proud of the fact that her father was a gardener – and Laurent of his childhood memories of the Haute Marne countryside.
The Chef has a very close relationship with the producers of his savours and flavours on which his cuisine is based. To weave his magic cooking spells he realised he had to understand the life cycles of every plant he uses. Laurent Petit created his first aromatic garden In 2004. In 2015, his dishes became lake- and plant-based and 100% local. The reasons are self-evident – to transmit his love of the area. None of his producers are more than a day’s walk (0 to 50 km) from his restaurant Le Clos des Sens.
In the summer of 2018, a new, decisive, page was turned in the history of Le Clos des Sens. The restaurant now stands in the middle of a marvellous 1,500sq.m. garden cultivated in permaculture with 200 varieties of plants. 500sq.m. are dedicated to 40 varieties of aromatics. Then, on 1,000sq.m. on the lowest part of the ground, there are 160 varieties of fruit, vegetables, plants and edible flowers. The watchword is clear – gastronomy to titillate all the senses.
FROM THE GARDEN TO THE KITCHEN. LE CLOS DES SENS WATCHWORD.
Almost all the melt-in-the mouth plants and vegetables in Laurent Petit’s dishes come from the garden of le Clos des Sens. The team’s heart beats to nature’s rhythm – sowing, accompanying the life of each plant to help it grow, to observe it, to sense it – then to pick it in its prime. Before each meal, the cooks do the picking and cook their harvest immediately, decorate the plates and serve their delighted guests. This ultimate freshness composes a symphony of unparalleled savours and flavours – and liveliness.
It is how Laurent Petit sees the future of his business – to be as close as possible to the soil, to living nature, to encourage the plants start to grow, to interpret them and then to marry them together with precision and love. Now 55, he has an imperative urge to share his vision of life. The energy of nature – and its fragility. The Chef is constantly in search of truth. Fully concentrated, he paints the immense landscape which radiates around Le Clos des Sens with his sensitivity – a vibrant microcosm of the natural elements of the cosmos, the power of the mountains and the waters, with the evanescent and hidden beauty of the agastache.
A HAVEN FOR RENEWAL
Le Clos des Sens’ 1500sq.m. garden looks out over Lake Annecy Lake and Les Bauges. Below it, the city is very close. And yet it is a haven of peace, where time stands still. Nature echoes the birdsongs. Seeing the sun set softly in a mysteriously multi-hued light is a moment of pure happiness. Some days, in particular from May to October, this natural spectacle is full of promise. What a pleasure to walk along the garden paths – an invitation to discovery, contemplation and rest! Do not miss out on a rest in the comfortable hammock for a delicious moment of renewal and daydreams.
THE MARVELOUS AROMATICS GARDEN
The restaurant’s terrace overlooks the “Corti” (the word for garden in the local dialect) called “The Carré des Aromates”. Dozens of aromatic, medicinal plants (tansies) and condiments are cultivated there – including lemon balm, lemon grass from Madagascar, oregano, tansy, oyster plant, peppermint…
An alley, featuring blue Savoy stone stepping stones, connects the Corti to the swimming pool and the south-west facing Aromatic Garden. The gravel paths lap pleasantly like wavelets around the aromatic plants – Sichuan pepper plants, agastache, rosemary, sage and savoury.
THE PATH THROUGH THE NECTAR SOURCES
The Mellifères (nectar source) path has 45 steps, in flights of 3, and leads down to the kitchen garden, 10 metres below. It is hedged with currants, blackcurrants, lilac, castor, elder and honey locust bushes. The maples, walnut, hazel, apple, plum and dogwood trees are sanctuaries for birds. The path continues down to a small square called the “Jardin de Mon Père” ( “My Father’s Garden”) – the dream fruit and vegetable garden created by Laurent and Martine Petit.
HER FATHER’S GARDEN
It was the Lord of the Manor’s gardener, Martine’s father, who taught her about plants. South-facing Le Clos des Sens’ 1,000sq.m. kitchen garden slopes down in hillocks. Plants from America, Korea and China flourish there. As well as apricot, fig, apple and plum trees as well strawberries and even hardy kiwis. But pride of place goes to Laurent Petit’s favourites – fennels, cabbage turnips, curly kale, spinach beet, stem celeries, beetroot, zucchinis, leeks, pumpkins, salsify, pink, white and horse radishes, sunflowers, Indian and Japanese mustards, Russian gherkins, beef and heritage tomatoes, wild rocket, onions… The Chef’s task is to cultivate the simplest, most basic vegetables and extol their virtues. Restaurant guests understand, know what to expect and flock to the Le Clos des Sens in ever-increasing numbers.
THE FERA SMOKING-ROOM
At the end of the kitchen garden is a smoker used to smoke the partly formed eggs of the local fera fish caught in autumn. Wonderfully crunchy! But also eggs collected for Christmas festivals outside the normal fishing season. And then unhatched eggs which are bigger and riper when the season opens. This approach highlights the vegetative cycle of wild fish. Fera eggs are an extraordinary condiment which gives the taste to Laurent Petit’s lakeside cuisine. And smoked fera fillets are the backbone of his mille-feuille slices with curly kale, a great dish created in 2018, which tells the whole story of the restaurant. The kale is picked in the garden at the peak of its savour.
“Permaculture” is the contraction of the English words “permanent” and “agriculture”. It describes all the ways of cultivating the soil that conserve its fertility. It is a philosophy centred on the environment, mankind and equal shares for everyone in society. It aims to create an abundant and complex natural harmony. Taking as its starting point ecology, tradition and every geographical and climatic context, it seeks sustainable, resilient, energy saving production that respects human beings and their inter-relationships. By ensuring that each element is in its right place, surrounded by good interactions, it significantly reduces waste and power consumption.
Natural agriculture is a complete spiritual path (Tao). It is based on “inaction” as in the philosophy of Mu (nothingness). It has 4 basic principles – no ploughing, no fertiliser, no weeding and no pesticides.
EXPLORE THE GARDEN’s DESIGN AND LIFE