Last week we celebrated another spectacular Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau in Mauritius. The 11th edition of this unique festival included many highlights. Here Chris Barber, restaurant consultant and former chef shares his experience of the very special dinner prepared by 2 star Michelin and Bocuse d’Or winner Serge Vieira is hard to beat:
Over my years of attendance at FCBL I have got to know Serge Vieira, like me 2016 is his 5th visit. He has been on the winning team, taken part in the festival twice, and has twice been on the jury; he is part of the Constance family.
Cooking in a hot climate has its challenges, so Serge created a menu that could be created and plated quickly in the kitchen, but bringing a lightness and freshness to the flavours with each course.
The dinner was held at the beachfront La Spiaggia restaurant, the perfect setting for such a special occasion. Before service started, I managed to grab a few moments in the kitchen seeing the chefs, led by Serge, putting the final touches to the dishes. Of course, it was hot, but what I noticed were smiles, confidence and a reassuring air of calm radiating from a man who is clearly one of the greatest talents in gastronomy.
Of the dishes, my favourites were an exquisite lobster medallion served with quinoa and beetroot salad and a delicate steamed turbot with a hint of Indian Ocean spices. There was also a delightful and clever pea ravioli to go with the roasted saddle of lamb, showing great technique and flavour combinations. That said, the opening course of marinated Oso prawns and a unique apple tart for dessert started and ended the meal on a high.
So what influence has Constance Hotels and FCBL had on Serge Vieira? “When I come here it is like coming home, even if the staff change a little year by year the incredible spirit remains. I close my restaurant for four months per year, so I travel and discover and see food, service and ingredients that often influence my menu, from Mauritius there is certainly a touch of spice.”
What about the next 12 months, are there more exciting things happening? “I would love to get a third star, and it is definitely the aim, however it is more difficult in our remote rural location to get recognition, unlike those in Paris, Lyon and the other more well known gastronomic regions. I do not do TV or media events that would take me out of the restaurant during the season, I am there in the kitchen every day looking after my guests and my team.” Similarly to Constance, Serge puts the guest first and will not compromise his reputation for any ‘quick win’ publicity.
One could say how lucky Serge has been to be part of the Festival Culinaire on so many occasions. However, I would say that the guests, staff and colleagues at Constance are equally lucky, having the annual privilege of a culinary collaboration with a man of true greatness – Serge Vieira.
It would be no surprise to me if Serge became a holder of 3 Michelin stars, it would be well deserved and could not come to a nicer person.
Passionate about food? Visit our website for more about this year’s Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau, and check out our Storify that captured the event as it unfolded.