Alain Senderens: Senderens and wine

Conversations with Alain Senderens, one of France’s greatest chefs

In this episode: Senderens and wine

This is a video series in six parts:

The series is based on short videos that I recorded when I met Senderens at his restaurant.

The conversations are in French but you can choose your language in the YouTube videos:

  1. Turn on “closed captions” by clicking on the CC icon in the lower right-hand corner
  2. Select your preferred language by clicking the cogwheel icon and selecting the Subtitles/CC language (NB: you have to do it in this order)

You can also read the article about Alain Senderens that was the result of this meeting. It was originally published in a different version in Chef Magazine, now published in a more complete version on Forbes and an extended version on Alain Senderens on BKWine Magazine.

The text introductions below are just that, introductions to what you can find on the videos. It is obviously not complete transcriptions.

Alain Senderens and wine

Wine glasses at Restaurant Alain Senderens at Place de la Madeleine

Wine glasses at Restaurant Alain Senderens at Place de la Madeleine, copyright BKWine Photography, this image may NOT be used elsewhere

And where is the wine in all this?

The way of working with wine also changed when Senderens changed the restaurant’s strategy (see another of the videos). Before he worked with very expensive wines, great or grand wines. Afterwards it was necessary to find less expensive wines. For example, his sommelier is very good at finding good wines but not unreasonable, maybe right next to an appellation, outside the appellation, but also good. A novelty is also to organize the wines on the menu, not by order of appellation, but by price. Another original strategy: the margin on “great wines” is reduced to the same margin as for wine shops. So great wines become affordable, and they have never sold so many great wines. What role does wine play in the restaurant, what strategy?

The link between wine and soil, terroir, its origin

As a starting point, there was a great book that talked about the land and terroirs of the wines. There is an important link between the wine and the taste of the wines and the land where the vines have grown.

Make experiments to find good food and wine matches

Senderens makes experiments with all kinds of ingredients and accompaniment to create a wine and food pairing. But we must also understand that a marriage between a dish and a wine is limited in time, among other things because the wine evolves. Texture is also an important element in matches, both in the dish and in the wine. Alain Senderens has also published a book on food and wine pairing: Le vin et la table (Flammarion 1999).

One key word in wine-and-food: “freedom”

There are complementary pairings and there are opposition food-and-wine matches. But his new menu led him to create what he calls “courtesy cooking” or kindness / politeness (« une cuisine de courtoisie »). Senderens has both created a lot in gastronomy but also thought a lot about gastronomy and wine. He has written a book on wine and food, and he has also written an unpublished treatise from which he quotes a few passages. His key word, an emblematic word, is “freedom”. Freedom to search. Freedom to question everything.

Conversations with Alain Senderens, one of the greatest chefs in France. Throughout his career Senderens was a pioneer in French cuisine and especially for the pairing of food and wine. He was one of the first (maybe the first?) to propose a “wine menu” with a different wine to each dish. It was Senderens who gave wine the place it deserved at the table. He also jostled and shocked the gastronomic establishment of France when, in 2005, he “returned” his three Michelin stars to make French haute cuisine more democratic. His restaurant, that carried his name “Alain Senderens” on Place de la Madeleine, nevertheless remained one of the best restaurants in France, but with less luxury. He was also one of the great modernizers of the gastronomy and restaurant business in France, one of the founders of the nouvelle cuisine, and much more.

Alain Senderens died on June 25, 2017. The conversations were recorded on November 10, 2011 at the restaurant Alain Senderens on the Place de la Madeleine in Paris.

This post is also available in: Swedish

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