Michel Roth, the Michelin-starred chef now in charge of the kitchens at the Bayview restaurant in Geneva and Terroirs de Lorraine in Metz railway station after almost 20 years at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, casts his mind back to childhood days to recommend zander, a fish he associates with happy memories angling in the lakes near Sarreguemines. As an accompaniment, he suggests a 2014 Domaine Clos des Rochers (Grevenmacher) Pinot Noir.
A towering figure, Michel Roth is one of the greatest chefs of his generation. He has scooped up almost all the accolades a head chef could hope for including Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the Bocuse d’Or, and the Légion d’Honneur. This native of the Lorraine region born in Sarreguemines has now come home to open a new restaurant in France’s finest railway station in Metz. In fact, the Terroirs de Lorraine restaurant is merely the latest challenge taken on by a man who loves to keep testing himself, as he is still the executive chef of the Bayview Restaurant (one Michelin star, 18/20 in the Gault&Millaut guide) in the luxurious Hotel President Wilson on the banks of Lake Geneva. To give an idea of just how prestigious this establishment is (as well as a good anecdote) it offers the world’s most expensive suite.
Before arriving in Switzerland, Michel Roth spent almost 2 decades working in the kitchens of the L’Espadon restaurant in the Ritz Hotel, Paris. Having started as a trainee chef and worked for a spell at another highly prestigious eatery (Lasserre in Paris), he left the Ritz as executive chef and kitchen manager when the establishment closed for four years to undergo major renovations. “I still feel a real connection to the Ritz – I spent some fantastic years there and every time I go back, I’m given a very warm welcome. But I viewed this break imposed by the renovations as an opportunity to branch out. The Ritz conjures images of fine French cuisine and its former prestigious head chef, Escoffier. To some extent, a traditional approach is imposed by the setting and identity of the place, as there is a need to conform with convention, which is entirely appropriate.”
I had greater freedom and was able to express my personality to a greater degree.
On leaving, he decided to set up his own company aimed at sharing his expertise. He worked with various clients including Lenôtre and Air France on its first class and business class meals, took part in gastronomy cruises organised by the Compagnie du Ponant several times a year, and was heavily involved in charity work … suffice it to say that he was never at a loose end, and things only got busier six years ago when he was approached to open the new Bayview Restaurant in the Hotel President Wilson, an institution in the Geneva hotel sector.
“I was excited about the challenge of helping set up a new restaurant!” he smiles. The interior design needed work and new staff had to be recruited … It was like a rebirth as I was able to design a more personal menu than at the Ritz. When you reach 50, you don’t change your approach completely, but since the restaurant had no past, I had greater freedom and was able to express my personality to a greater degree. It was really good for me!”
Last year, the French railway operator SNCF asked him to take over the restaurant in Metz railway station. Delighted to return to the region of his birth, he accepted, espousing a focus on local products. “At the moment, I’m splitting my time between Geneva and Metz, but I intend to devote more time to Terroirs”, he promises.
In my view this dish calls for a Pinot Noir.
The recipe he has recommended for Vinorama is a tribute to his childhood memories. “The zander is a fish typically found in our rivers and I have been working with it since my apprenticeship in Sarreguemines. I would often catch it in the local lakes,” he reminisces. As for the mushrooms, they are in season at the moment and you can pick them in the woods.” Although the recipe presented here is not yet on the Terroirs de Lorraine menu, Michel Roth is considering adding it soon with the odd tweak to its presentation. “The dish presented here is gastronomic,” he points out. “In Metz, I might opt to serve it in a saucepan, giving it a more bistronomic and traditional feel.”
When choosing a wine to serve with this dish, it is evident that the red wine matelote sauce requires us to open something of same colour, and it just happens that the Luxembourg vineyards have some perfect pairings to offer. “In my view this dish calls for a Pinot Noir. I usually serve a burgundy or, as a local alternative from the Lorraine region, a Château de Vaux Pinot Noir (editor’s note: produced near Metz). However, Luxembourg also offers some very good Pinot Noirs and I would recommend a 2014 Clos des Rochers to accompany this zander dish. This is a lively, fruity wine which is nevertheless full-bodied. It stands up well to some of the burgundies and is a good illustration of how the quality of Luxembourgian wines has improved in recent years.”