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Relais & Châteaux marks its 60th Anniversary and the fulfilment of the dreams of our founding fathers at the first ‘Relais & Châteaux Fellow Chefs’ Lunch’

May 16, 2014 Food & Beverage No Comments Email Email

On 12 May 2014, more than 60 Grands Chefs including South African Grand Chef, Peter Tempelhoff, of The Collection by Liz McGrath, came together to blow out the 60 candles on the Relais & Châteaux  cake:  a top-level gourmet wine and food occasion at Georges Blanc’s Relais & Châteaux in Vonnas, where its owner magnificently orchestrated this vintage, 50s-style event. 

From L to R: Philippe Gombert - Chairman of R&C, Alexandre Léanza- Moët & Chandon, Georges Blanc- Grand Chef R&C  and Olivier Roellinger- VP of R&C

From L to R: Philippe Gombert – Chairman of R&C, Alexandre Léanza- Moët & Chandon, Georges Blanc- Grand Chef R&C and Olivier Roellinger- VP of R&C Credit Photo: Thomas Bismuth

More than 60 Relais & Châteaux Grands Chefs from 10 different countries, celebrities who played an iconic role in the history of our Association and distinguished guests, arrived at the village of Vonnas in vintage cars to celebrate our landmark anniversary.

Philippe Gombert, International President of Relais & Châteaux, stressed: ‘We should never forget the debt that we owe to all those who shaped our destiny. On 12 May 1954, not far from Vonnas, at the ‘Chapon Fin’ belonging to Georges Blanc’s uncle, Paul Blanc, at the end of a morning’s work, eight hoteliers and chefs laid the foundations of Relais & Châteaux. They decided to unite their eight hostelleries, all authentic, lived-in properties sited along the road from Paris to Nice, to share with their guests a magnificent Art of Living and outstanding cuisine in the firm belief that one day their shared passion would prove a global success. Sixty years later, to the very day, we can say that the dream of our founding fathers has come true.

Highlights of the day, a 1950s-style ‘taste rally’, included heavenly culinary discoveries in convivial company. In the words of Georges Blanc, the esteemed host of the event: ‘People say that “Happiness is the only thing that doubles in size when you share it” and that is certainly the case for this fine family occasion’.

From L to R: Philippe Gombert - Chairman of R&C, Alexandre Léanza- Moët & Chandon, Georges Blanc- Grand Chef R&C, Olivier Roellinger- VP of R&C Credit Photo: Thomas Bismuth

From L to R: Philippe Gombert – Chairman of R&C, Alexandre Léanza- Moët & Chandon, Georges Blanc- Grand Chef R&C, Olivier Roellinger- VP of R&C Credit Photo: Thomas Bismuth

The menus alone offer ample proof of this with the exclusive participation of Moët Hennessy and their outstanding wines and champagnes.

In a large hall transformed for the occasion into a 1950s popular market, eight French Relais & Châteaux Grands Chefs from the surrounding area set the tone with mises en bouche celebrating the local produce of the Association’s original birthplace and guests enjoyed a glass of Moët & Chandon Impérial Blanc.

The ‘Relais & Châteaux Fellow Chefs’ Lunch’, signed by Georges Blanc, added a contemporary twist to a traditional menu: the iconic frogs legs sautéed Dombes-style with parsley accompanied by a glass of 2006 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Blanc; Mère Blanc’s legendary poulet de Bresse with morels and Vin Jaune with Vonnas crêpes served with a 1999 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection; and traditional Bresse galettes paired with a Nectar Impérial from the same champagne company.

The evening menu provided a superb finale to a day devised for the occasion by Georges Blanc and hosted in his gourmet restaurant: a ‘surf and turf’ jellied oyster garnished with Oscietra Royal caviar followed by a mystery soup with langoustines and shellfish served with a 1996 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque, a lobster printanière with Savagnin wine and a blend of spices paired with a 2002 Dom Pérignon Rosé, an Aveyron lamb pastry, and a green cabbage and foie gras terrine savoured with a glorious 2008 Domaine Faiveley  Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, Grand Cru. The dinner finished with a creative strawberry and raspberry dessert and a divine 1996 Château d’Yquem followed by a Paradis Impérial Hennessy cognac.

Everywhere, there were fine ingredients, the fruit of our terroirs, traditions and expertise, as could be seen by the presence of Pierre Sanner, Director of the French Mission for Food Culture and Heritage. Sixty years later, Relais & Châteaux remains the contemporary global embodiment of these values, in keeping with those of its founding fathers.

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