When Chef Anne-Sophie Pic was awarded her third Michelin star in 2007, she became the first French woman so honored in more than 50 years. You might have expected her to open a restaurant in Paris on the strength of it (her base is Valence, in southwest France), but as with her cooking, she likes to confound expectations. For her next move, Pic has taken over the dining room at the grande-dame Beau-Rivage Palace hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland. The reconfigured space is as pared down and elegant as her cooking, even echoing its play on layering, textures and translucency with floating suede panels on the walls. "Quite simply there was a meeting of minds and a shared sense of family and history with the hotel," explains Pic, who made her reputation at her fourth-generation family property, Maison Pic.
At Beau-Rivage Palace, she delights in exploring dishes that implode with liquid centers and contrast hot and cold. There's sublime fresh-morel mille-feuille with warm, runny aged Parmesan, morel cream and tarragon, and Sisteron lamb with molten Banon cheese, sweet Cévennes onions, capers, black olives and rocket emulsion. Pic is intrigued by unusual smoked tastes too. Asparagus is lightly smoked over beech and served with an exquisite layer of Aquitaine caviar. Even more unconventionally, the subtle bitter roast of Blue Mountain coffee is an inspired partner to low-temperature-steamed turbot, butter whisked with Menton lemon and gossamer-thin ravioli made with turnip and a hint of Arabica butter. "I like to exalt the role of vegetables beyond mere condiment; it's part of a more feminine sensibility to cuisine but I invariably convert men, too," Pic says, smiling. (Read TIME's stories about romance on the road.)
Alongside her highly contrasted menu ("Crisp and soft, sweet and acidulated, light and intense"), Pic serves the legendary crayfish au gratin and bass with caviar the dishes created by her grandfather André and father Jacques that first helped win Maison Pic three-star status. "Flavors are such an important part of our memory," she explains with feeling. "This is the way forward to know the best from before, but to continue to find my own creative culinary path." Find out more at www.brp.ch.
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