Even after living and working in this city for 18 years, I find new experiences around every corner. I recently celebrated my 63rd birthday here in Paris, where I am happily married and the father of a family. We decided to celebrate at home—where my family gave me a glorious birthday celebration.
Imagine my surprise when, a few days later, I went to lunch at my favorite restaurant. I was not prepared for the extraordinary meal that Chef Fabrice of Les Jalles had prepared for me. Before lunch, I met Chef Fabrice on the terrace outside 24 Rue Cappuccines, near la Place Vendôme. Sitting in the sunshine, looking over the menu, I noticed a butternut squash soup was listed, and kindly asked Chef Fabrice if he might share some of the secrets to his exquisite preparation of this delicious soup.
He looked at me for a moment quixotically and then replied in French, “Come on, Madison, get serious. If I break down and tell you how I make the soup, next time I come to work I’ll look up at the awning and I’ll see ‘Chex Madison.’” This made us both laugh heartily. The French use what is called “second degree humor,” which, when executed well, is as funny as you can imagine. He went back inside to work his magic, while I found my way to my table. As I took my seat, I was greeted by my first surprise of the afternoon: the hostess approached and explained that an amiable client before me had left a bottle of exquisite vintage French wine, which she offered to me—on the house.
Unbeknownst to me, Chef Fabrice had decided to show me what culinary magic a gourmet French chef is capable of performing. The succulent butternut squash soup arrived with ground nuts and thin slices of juicy braised duck arranged like a star. I found myself transported immediately into culinary seventh heaven—I don’t recall ever tasting something so delicious in my life. I’m certain the pleasure was ineluctably augmented by the realization it had been made especially for me. I spent a leisurely half hour enjoying the delicate tastes of this delicious appetizer. When I finished, I discovered that I was merely at the beginning of my pleasure—absolutely spoiled by Chef Fabrice Chez Les Jalles
I had never had anything so exquisitely, delectably prepared as the meal that Chef Fabrice prepared for me that day. A delicately braised Norwegian salmon, niçoise dès legumes, sweet red peppers, scallions, zucchini and cherry tomatoes under a thinly sliced layer of Andalouse chorizo in a crème de basalmique decorated lobster sauce…
The experience was phenomenal—every bite, every sip, and the gracious, knowledgeable, efficient service—truly a once in a lifetime event. It reminded me of Marcus Samuelsson’s words, “even just a few spices or ethnic condiments that you can keep in your pantry can turn your mundane dishes into a culinary masterpiece.” Chef Fabrice and the staff at Les Jalles created masterpiece after masterpiece.
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Lesley Bredvik says:
6 years ago
What a lovely story of mutual respect and appreciation. It is my intention to arrange a trip to Les Jalles and experience the magic of Chef Fabrice. Thank you Madison for the info. With all the fine restaurant choices in Paris….this small town Montana gal is certainly looking forward to the visit. …lesley
6 years ago
Happy Belated Birthday
What a wonderful experience
I enjoyed reading it
6 years ago
Wonderful. My husband and and I used to adore Les Halles in NYC. They have since moved to the financial district, but we haven’t tried the new location. It’s owned by Anthony Bourdain, so I’m assuming there is no relation between the restaurants. Maybe one day I will have the chance to try your Les Jalles. Cheers!