FRENCH WIZARD IN ST TROPEZ

Donckele is a master of poetry in the world of fine dining. PHOTO The Peak

IAN DE COTTA

HE WEARS a neatly trimmed moustache and goatee. A beard, too, if he is in the mood. The hair is a little dishevelled and it alludes to a laid-back lifestyle. In the winter months Arnaud Donckele takes to his Harley Davidson and roams the French Riviera in the Mediterranean. Throw a bandana on his head and he could pass off as a Hells Angels full-patch.

Donckele rides the Côte d’Azur in search of inspiration. In the 39-year-old’s world, he is a poet who darts in and out of farms and orchards to spark his creative instincts. The Rouen native is France’s celebrated chef, and from April to October he creates poetry in his La Vague d’or restaurant at the Résidence de la Pinède hotel in St Tropez. His brilliance paid off in 2013 when he became the youngest Michelin three-star chef.

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In handing the Frenchman the accolade, Michelin Guide’s international director Michael Ellis says Donckele’s fish dishes are highly original as he seeks out local producers for the highest quality ingredients. Cuisine, Ellis adds, must recount the history of the region.

Donckele is a wizard in this trade and, like an alchemist, conjures the magic out of the treasures from the French Riviera hinterland and the cobalt blue Mediterranean waters. “My aim is to create a culinary journey that is both bucolic and elegant, grounded in the fantastic produce that the Mediterranean has to offer,” he tells The Peak in St Tropez. “The art of cooking is knowing how to reveal flavours, and to then fittingly associate them in order to further amplify them — as with perfumes or fragrances.” Continue reading here

First published in The Peak.