Cuisine and Permaculture in Normandy

The new chefs at Château la Chenevière

Normandy 1

Francois Pelletey, the new Head Chef at Château la Chenevière’s bistronomy restaurant Le Petit Jardin has recently replaced Hugo Genty, who was himself appointed Head Chef of fine-dining restaurant Le Botaniste. The latter will be working together with Chef Director, Didier Robin.

Le Petit Jardin

New Head Chef at Le Petit Jardin François Pelletey is a young Norman who has trained in numerous establishments both in France and in Canada (Montreal) and who was recently Pastry Chef working with Head Chef Mi-Ra Thuillant at L’essentiel (1 Michelin star) in Deauville. His wish is to follow in Hugo’s footsteps by making sure his dishes are simple, delicious and seasonal – using vegetables from the hotel’s very own permaculture garden.

“I am passionate about vegetables.

I always try to highlight them and make them the key ingredient in my dishes. Out of respect for the produce and for the environment, I never throw anything away. I use the peelings and scarps in my broths. I infuse oils with stems and when I poach fruit, I keep the syrup to make sorbets.I like my dishes to be fresh, but I also enjoy fermenting produce and adding some acidity, for that element of surprise.

I was immediately drawn to la Chenevière’s permaculture garden and loved the idea of working side by side with its market gardener Pierre Vandaële.

My goal isn’t to start from scratch at Le Petit Jardin but to follow in the previous Chef Hugo Genty’s footstep, all the while adding my own personal touch.

Just like Hugo and Didier Robin, who are the Chefs at Le Botaniste, I like to work with local suppliers. The short food supply chain and Zero Waste are philosophies that I learned whilst working in Montreal, at restaurants like O’Thym.

I am originally from Bayeux and I’m happy to be back and to rediscover this region and its incredible seafood that we are lucky to have and that I hope to honour on my menu.

His love for vegetables is even noticeable in his dessert menu, which features a confit fennel served with green apple, Pastis cottage goat’s cheese and thin meringue.

Le Botaniste

Didier Robin – who has been Head Chef at Le Botaniste since 2003 and who was recently appointed Chef Director – will now be working together with Hugo Genty, the new Head Chef at Le Botaniste.

Hugo started his career at la Chenevière in 2013 at Le Botaniste’s kitchen where he learned a lot from Chef Didier Robin. This allowed him to become Head Chef at Le Petit Jardin for 4 years.

“I have always been appreciative of Didier’s attention to details when in comes to produce and producers. La Chenevière has always valued the environment. Its vegetable garden was planted in 2010 and its beehive was created in 2012. I remember the first dish I ever worked on at Le Botaniste: steamed young leeks served with a truffle vinaigrette. I loved that the produce wasn’t altered and denatured but was instead made to be the star of the dish. That’s what made me fall in love with this establishment.”

Hugo’s wish was to return to a fine-dining kitchen and Didier therefore suggested a collaboration between the two of them.

I was trained by Didier and my intentions are to continue in his incredible footsteps, all the while adding a bit of freshness to the menu. Modern cuisine doesn’t interest me. Instead, I respect traditional gastronomy but would like to add a touch of innovation to it. With beef, for instance, I’d like to demonstrate that every part of the animal can be used in fine-dining and not simply the filet. We will therefore also be serving the cheeks as a pot-au-feu, which is usually a typical brasserie dish, which we’ll revamp and elevate.

Didier and Hugo’s must-try dish this season is the ox cheek served in a pot au feu, with buckwheat cromesquis, bone marrow on toast and root vegetables.

The Permaculture

Didier Robin has always been a firm believer of short food supply chains ever since he’s become Head Chef at Le Botaniste in 2003. He has always worked with small, local producers who he visits weekly at Bayeux farmers’ market.

In 2010, the hotel planted its first vegetable garden on a 1000m2 plot, which later expanded onto 2 hectares and was gradually converted into a permaculture vegetable garden. Today, it supplies both restaurants with vegetables, fruits and herbs.

Pierre Vandaële, who is an organic market gardener from Saint Vigor, has been looking after La Cheneviere’s vegetable garden.

Out of love and respect for the environment, Pierre has both stopped watering open fields in 2013, and using synthetic mulch in 2015. He works with all the garden’s surroundings, including its hedges and natural ponds, as to create an eco-system. Pierre always seeks to evolve and become more and more environmentally conscious.

As of November 2020, he now works almost exclusively (70 percent of the time), using animal traction instead of tractors, with the help of his mare Victoire. For Pierre, permaculture is a lifestyle.

He works closely together with the three chefs Didier, Hugo and François.

It’s at the Bayeux farmers’ market that I met Pierre Vandaële there, an organic vegetable farmer who now looks after Château la Chenevière’s permaculture vegetable garden, which I’m so grateful to have. It’s such an asset. It’s also an incredible source of inspiration. Pierre and I meet at least once a week to discuss the upcoming seasonal harvest. He’s full of ideas and innovation; and always samples my recipes. It’s real teamwork. Together, we find solutions, like keeping dried beans for the in between-seasons period.” Explains Didier

Notes on Château la Chenevière:

5-star hotel part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Address: Château de La Chenevière – Commes, 14520 Port-en-Bessin, Normandy, France
Telephone: +33 2 31 51 25 25
Rooms: 29 in 5 categories

History: In the 17th century, La Chenevière was an immense property dedicated to the cultivation of hemp which was used to make rope and clothing for fishermen. During the Second World War, the estate was occupied by the Germans. La Chenevière became the headquarters of high-ranking German officers. In 1988, the Château was purchased by Marie-Françoise and Thomas Dicker who decided to transform this charming location brimming with history into a prestige hotel which they named La Chenevière (“The Hemp Field”), in homage to the nickname given to the building during its early farming days, “la chenevrotte” (“hemp chaff”).

Notes on fine-dining restaurant Le Botaniste :

Address: Le Botaniste au Château de La Chenevière – Commes, 14520 Port-en-Bessin
Opening time: from Tuesday to Thursday, 7pm to 9.30pm
Telephone: +33 2 31 51 25 25
Chef Director: Didier Robin
Head Chef: Hugo Genty
Pastry Chef: Simon Beauruelle
Market gardener: Pierre Vandaële
Set menu: one starter, one main and one dessert for 68€ or two starters, one main and one dessert for 89€.

Notes on bistrot restaurant Le Petit Jardin :

Address: Le Petit Jardin au Château de La Chenevière – Commes, 14520 Port-en-Bessin, France
Opening time: from Thursday to Monday, 12pm to 1.30pm and from 7pm to 10pm
Telephone: +33 2 31 51 25 22
Instagram and Facebook : @lepetitjardinnormandy
Head Chef: François Pelletey
Market Gardner: Pierre Vandaële
Covers: 60 indoors and 60 outdoors
Set lunch menu : starter + main or main + dessert at 19€ and starter + main + dessert at24€.
Barbecue lunches are organised every Sunday during Summer

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