Thirty-two thousand and dust… This is the number of “saddles of lamb from the Alps cooked in the clay of Vallauris” that Christian Morisset has tasted, “without tiring”, to his customers since 1988.
The hatching date of this treat that has become legendary and was created to celebrate the birth of Jordan, his eldest son. While each of these meat dishes are numbered, like works of art, we don’t know exactly how many “squid and clam cannelloni with squid ink, clam juice with basil leaves,” another chef’s signature dish, “conceived in 1990, for the birth Matija, my youngest”, they enjoyed.
What we do know is that these two dishes go together wonderfully in the signature menu that the chef is offering until December 4th. The best of the seven-course recipes that have marked the chef’s career, including fresh foie gras from the Landes, pear chutney or crème brûlée with lavender, to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit. Beautiful house.
Before the fig tree and its winding branches that one likes to curl up under, there was the Hotel Juana, in Juan-les-Pins. For almost 20 years, Christian Morisset has shone two stars here with his applied, sophisticated cuisine. In the straight and demanding line of Alain Ducasse, who preceded him.
For if one too easily projects a certain eccentricity in Christian Morisset’s elevated bacchantes, one must rather seek a connection with the precision, the attention to detail, the aesthetic goal that constellates his subabial hairiness as much as his cuisine. Extremely precise, polished, made with just the right amount of cooking.
He needed it when he was five. Keys. The pleasure of baking, caramelizing, rising.
“Then I wanted to be a pastry chef. Even today, I like to make desserts with a treat“, says Poitevin, who made pancakes from milk cream as a child.
So they will bake and then cook. Go through the stairs, climb the ladder.
In La Chèvre d’Or in Èze, in Mas d’Artigny in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Le Moulin de Mougins, Vergé period. Before becoming chef at Château d’Esclimont in Eure-et-Loir in 1985 and, in 1987, he returned to Antibes, in Juan before finding his home, under the fig tree, rue Saint-Esprit in 2007.
“In 18 years in Antibes, I have passed this street twice. At the inauguration of La Jarre, the restaurant created here by Frédéric Ramos, and to dine there for the second time. The street was nice, but not at all commercial and no parking in the driveway. When I was looking for my house, this restaurant that was for sale did not catch my attention. After two years of searching, my friend, the baker Jean-Paul Veziano, told me:it’s La Jarre, the restaurant for you’‘, I listened.”
And fifteen years later, with no regrets…
“A gourmet restaurant must be in an authentic place. Here is this stamp. It was a little dark, we lit up, changed the lighting and fixed the sticks.”
When the framework was ready, Christian Morisset formed his brigade. The family. “Since the beginning of the project, my wife Josiane and my eldest son Jordan, who has just left hotel school, have been on an adventure. He spent four years here and now works in the event kitchen. My youngest, Matthias, was on an apprenticeship with Christian Kotarda in confectionery. He joined us. In the beginning, we were really a very small team, a maximum of eight. Before Covid, we worked between 20 and 22 people.
Small producers and humanity
All this little world that doesn’t work for the stars even if they have one…”I’m done worrying about it!” – but so that “the customer leaves satisfied, that he comes back and that it is our pleasure to cook for him.” And sublime, on a daily basis, the wonders chosen by the chef at the Forville market from local producers: Viales, Antoine, Gilles Pellegrin, Jean-Charles Orso and this lady, who travels every morning from La Martre, to the Var.
There is also chocolate from Maison Duplanteur, in Grasse, which is used for desserts and will make up one of the chocolate-pecan logs that Christian Morisset is currently working on. “We will also be making, for holiday takeaway menus, with scallops, kumquat cucumber, homemade white pudding, chicken, beef wellington…“
The chef is also thinking about 2023. He would like to introduce young people to gastronomy, and in January he will offer a shopping menu – one free for those under 28. It resonates with a dinner recently organized for the benefit of Ukraine, this refugee apprentice he took under his wing and a meal for caregivers during the pandemic.
Morisset, social leader? “We have very difficult characters in the kitchen, temperament but also generosity. That is crucial. That and humility.”
Fig of the Holy Spirit. 14 rue Saint-Esprit in Antibes. Until December 4: 7-course tasting menu 138e, 3-course initial menu 80e. Complimentary glass of champagne. Info. 04.93.34.50.12. or at restaurant-figuier-saint-esprit.fr