Swiss author Martin Suter devoted his novel The Chef to culinary pleasures, telling the story of Maravan, a young Tamil chef who uses his cooking talents for seduction purposes. Alexandre Gauthier has also mastered this game. Very early on, he decided that cooking was about more than just providing nourishment. Like the character of Maravan, he sees the sole aim of his work in giving his customers pleasure.
After stints at some renowned French establishments (Coutanceau in La Rochelle, Lasserre in Paris, La Pinède in Saint Tropez), Alexandre Gauthier soon joined his father, Roland, back at the family-run inn near Montreuil-sur-Mer, in Pas-de-Calais. The decor was traditional, and grenouilles meunières (frogs abound in these parts) were a mainstay of the classic cuisine served there. Gauthier gradually took charge of the kitchen. In the old rooms of the restaurant, increasingly innovative dishes were served up: the contrast between extremely weathered walls and highly modern meals could not have been starker.
It was when he renovated the hotel restaurant in 2011 that Alexandre Gauthier really came into his own. He did not stop at extending and revamping the place; he took this overhaul as an opportunity to reflect on his vocation as a chef and hotelier, and to devise in minute detail the experience he wanted his customers to have. When it came to envisaging the new setting, Alexandre Gauthier took on a role akin to a film or theatre director. The notion of pleasure is the cornerstone of what is on offer at the all-new La Grenouillère.
Two encounters were to play a key role in this reinvention. The first involved architect Patrick Bouchain, who was recruited to redesign the place. He likes to strip buildings of anything superfluous and question their function, in order to obtain a pure experience. For La Grenouillère, he drew on the region’s traditional hunting cabins and Alexandre Gauthier’s childhood memories of adventures with the boy scouts. Together, the pair dreamed up the improbable alliance of nature at its most untamed and the standard of comfort expected at a hotel-restaurant of this calibre.