French chef Arnaud Lallement received his first Michelin star when he was only twenty six years of age. His second came at age thirty and his third in the same year he was voted Chef of the Year by Le Chef Magazine in 2014. Growing up admiring his father Jean-Pierre at the stoves of their family restaurant, Arnaud always knew he wanted to be a chef. It was his father who instilled the passion and skill for the profession in him and it was his father who guided his incredibly successful and decorated career throughout the years.
At the family owned l’Assiette Champenoise, Chef Arnaud Lallement creates timeless dishes that are a tribute to the Champagne region. It was in this beautiful establishment during an incredible four hour lunch with our friends from Champagne Armand de Brignac that we were first introduced to the vibrant, very funny and very kind personality of Chef Arnaud, but most of all, to his ridiculously amazing food. It was also here that the idea for Chasing the Bib was born, through Arnaud’s stunning dishes and the realization that our industry was lacking something Arnaud could not be more passionate about: products of outstanding quality and knowledge about them.
Now, a little under a year later, we couldn’t be happier to share some of Chef Arnaud’s vibrance with you. Because really, is there a better Valentine’s Day gift than a quick intermezzo with Champagne’s absolute best? We think not.
First things first, in all honesty, how old were you when you had your first glass of Champagne?
“My dad baptized me with champagne! But before learning how to taste it, I actually got to know it first.”
Born and raised in?
“I was born in Reims and grew up near Reims in Chalons sur Vesle, France.”
What, to you, is the main difference between eating in Champagne and eating elsewhere in France?
“Even though it appears seemingly uniform, the ‘terroir champenois’ is rich and varied thanks to our peculiar climate.”
How important is champagne – the wine – to your food?
“I don’t create champagne recipes, for me it’s an accompaniment to the dish. This is the reason why I coordinate so many dishes with champagne.”
Is there a food you absolutely despise?
“My motto is: eat true [mangez vrai]! I love everything, as long as it’s in season.”
Your mother and father started l’Assiette Champenoise, was it an easy transition when you and your sister Mélanie took over the reigns?
“Our parents let us do things our way pretty much from the beginning, all while staying very close to us.”
Since your parents knew first-hand that it is not the easiest of professions, did they ever say ‘Arnaud, maybe you shouldn’t …’?
“Oh no! We have all loved this job, always, it is a passion for my parents as it is for us.”
What’s it like to work so closely with your family?
“We all understand each other very well, I believe this to be our strength.”
Besides your father, which chefs have inspired you the most?
“Bocuse, Ducasse, Chapel.”
“I was classically trained at the Strasbourg Hotel & Catering College and I love this school. Respect for this wonderful job is very important.”
French cuisine is arguably the highest regarded cuisine in the world, how do you feel about the cookings in the rest of the world?
“Foreign cuisine interests me a lot, but I only work with French products.”
What has been your favorite dish so far?
“I don’t really have a favorite dish, everything always depends on when we eat it and with whom we eat it.”
Do you concern yourself with trends?
“My chefs and I work on new trends a lot and we do a lot of testing. Afterwards we decide whether or not a dish will be offered on our menu. Everything has to be coherent. A menu has to be coherent.”
How do you feel about substitutions, knowing that nowadays guest requests can get crazier than ever with so many people being sensitive to gluten, dairy, nuts, life … ?
“We always ask our guests about their dietary restrictions before they come in, we do the best we can to ensure everyone leaves happy.”
“December 31st we had a big blackout and gas failure. A whole reorganization had to be undertaken and we just finally finished everything.”
When are you happiest at work?
What will we never ever find on your menu?
“A product that is not in season.”
“Nope. All chefs in the world are in love with the Michelin Guide!”
Any big goals left?
“To stay the same.”
When in Champagne, a visit to l’Assiette Champenoise to try Chef Arnaud Lallement’s spectacular Champagne inspired cuisine for yourself is a must. In the meantime head over to our Instagram page to see just a few of the courses we were served during our iconic lunch (and that cheese cart, oh that cheese cart … ). But before you do, this treat is not quite finished yet!
Scroll down for an exclusive peek into Champagne’s other best: the cellars of Champagne House Cattier, home to Champagne Armand de Brignac. The cellars are generally not open to the public, but we had the privilege of being granted access to this gorgeous and elusive piece of French history a few months ago and let’s just say, pictures don’t do it justice!
12th and 13th generation wine growers, Jean-Jacques Cattier and his son Alexandre, craft the prestige cuvées of Armand de Brignac. Their dream was to create a champagne of the most exceptional quality, that would represent the best of the best from the region, where their family have grown vines for more than 250 years.
Jean Jacques Cattier aimed at creating a luxury Champagne brand with a different approach than their historic one. The philosophy of this cuvee was to respond to a double and ambivalent imperative: be innovative while remaining traditional. The answer to this aspiration was to place innovation both in packaging and tradition, with their knowledge in the champagne production.
The first release from Champagne Armand de Brignac, the Brut Gold remains the most iconic cuvée in the range.
Each bottle of Armand de Brignac is coated in metal, finished with the hand application of French pewter labels and polished. Only twenty bottles can be completed per person per hour in the winery, and as a result, no two bottles are the same.
GOLD BRUT – ROSÉ – DEMI-SEC – BLANC DE BLANCS – BLANC DE NOIRS ASSEMBLAGE TWO
In the 1950s, Nelly Cattier, mother to Jean-Jacques, discovered a character in a novel she was reading, called ‘M. De Brignac’. She found the name noble and registered it for use on a new wine in the future. It was long forgotten, and during the creation of this new tête de cuvée from the house in the early 2000s, Jean-Jacques decided to pay tribute to his mother by adopting this special name.
The Cattier family is based in the Montagne de Reims in France and own 33 hectares of vines across some of the most lauded crus in Champagne, including the villages of Rilly-la-Montagne, Chigny-les-Roses and Ludes.
NOW, and this is the real kicker, Armand de Brignac actually formed a partnership with Chef Arnaud Lallement recently. As of September 1st, 2017, L’Assiette Champenoise debuted a new luxury tasting menu that showcases all five prestige cuvées from Armand de Brignac. It is the only place in the world where this full tasting of the range is currently possible.
The special tasting menu can be booked as a standalone experience or as part of a luxury package including one night accommodation in a terrace suite at the five star Hotel L’assiette Champenoise, breakfast, luxury car transfers from Paris or Reims TGV station and an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Champagne Armand de Brignac’sfamily-owned winery and historic chalk cellars, which (as we mentioned) are closed to the public year-round.