The next generation of Côte d'Azur chefs
The Côte d'Azur is a hotbed of culinary activity and has lost none of its gastronomic aura, luring a host of inspired young chefs.
By Lionel Leoty
Akhara Chay à La Vague de Saint Paul crée une cuisine du Sud teintée d'exotisme. © Eleonora Strano
À la carte de La Table du Royal - Hôtel Royal-Riviera, les créations de Geoffroy Szamburski ; au centre, sa Gamberoni de San Remo, oxalis, citron de Menton.
After a period of stagnation, the region is waking up to the arrival of young chefs and restaurateurs with well-balanced backgrounds, full of authenticity and conviction, who bring with them new culinary trends: small sharing plates (Rouge, Pinpin...), ceviches (Peixes, Yose...), innovative preservation and maturing techniques (Ceto) – not to mention convivial gastronomy with bright and welcoming service. The same is true of bistros, new Michelin-starred restaurants and even palaces given an international and contemporary makeover ( Riviera and Rüya at the Carlton Cannes; Pavyllon Monte-Carlo at the Hôtel Hermitage, a restaurant designed by Yannick Alléno).
Even the Michelin Guide has dusted off its award criteria. The Tourteaux brothers and their restaurant Flaveur in Nice were awarded their second star in 2018, despite a dining room once considered too small for a two-star restaurant. Les Agitateurs also won the award for their ingenuity in tantalising Niçois and gourmet taste buds, rapidly landing their star. Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the new Onice, located in the port district, by two top chefs: Florencia Montes, former executive chef at Mirazur, and Lorenzo Ragni, chef-entrepreneur in London. The pair offer a contemporary cuisine based on delicate, velvety ingredients, very much in keeping with the local area and nature’s cycles. At Le Panier, a stone's throw from the Cours Saleya, globe-trotting chef Aurélien Martin delivers a well-balanced score of flavours so close to home, yet so far away, that they thrill the senses. And let's not forget some unmissable addresses offering excellent value for money, like young chef Arnaud Collin's delicious Alchimie (Bib Gourmand 2023) in the centre of Nice. At Onaka, not far from there, Alexis Luong (French Sushi Champion 2021) impresses with his skill and ultra-precise contemporary Japanese cuisine.
© lepetitlugourmand Maquereau à la flamme, artichauts barigoule, bouillon dashi, pois chiches fermentés au miso, condiment pois chiches kimchi... un plat à déguster dans le Vieux-Nice au restaurant Le Panier, repris depuis 2020 par le chef Aurélien Martin et Marie Lacoue.
À la table d'ONICE, des produits locaux mis en valeur par Florencia Montes et Lorenzo Ragni. Ici, un Carpaccio de maigre, crème de poissons et gamberoni.© lepetitlugourmand
Saint-Paul-de-Vence and La Colle-sur-Loup, Llorca's stronghold, remain a breeding ground for talent: Akhara Chay at La Vague de Saint Paul offers a unique experience right in the kitchen, combining Mediterranean and Asian influences. Maxime Leconte, at the Table de Pierre in the Domaine du Mas de Pierre, concocts a creative cooking show influenced by his travels and world street food, or Provence. Stéphane Garcia, Gault&Millau Young Talent 2020, and his Atelier des Saveurs bring the South from east to west to his dishes. In Tourettes-sur-Loup this time, Raphaël and Marion welcome you sincerely into Spelt and open their naturally gourmet and inventive world to diners. Valdeblore's mountains are stunning, with chefs Louis-Philippe Riel and Alexis Bijaoui bringing nature to the fore at the Auberge de la Roche. As for Pauline and Christophe Billau, true happiness aubergists in Roubion, their Auberge Quintessence, Michelin-starred in 2019, is a mandatory stopping-off point to recharge your batteries and experience genuine gastronomy at altitude.
Along the coast…
The seaside is not to be overlooked. Eze village boasts the emblematic Chèvre d'Or, consistently executed with excellence by MOF chef Arnaud Faye, as well as the young Justin Schmitt, who recently won Château Eza its long-awaited Michelin star with his precise, high-flying cuisine. Geoffroy Szamburski and Lucas Simoncini have turned La Table du Royal at the Royal Riviera in Beaulieu-sur-Mer into a cutting-edge, creative benchmark. Claire and Takayuki Kamiya and their eponymous restaurant, whose identity is all delicacy and elegant harmony, are the talk of Cagnes-sur-Mer. Two talented young women – Anne Legrand and Clio Modaffari – are now taking customers on a blind menu at La Flibuste, Marina Baie des Anges, where the instant appeal of local produce wins them over. On La Croisette, Le Martinez caused a sensation this year by appointing the much hyped and highly international Jean Imbert as its executive chef. He is due to open his gastronomic restaurant there in 2024. And finally, on the Saint-Tropez peninsula, Philippe Colinet has turned Colette into a must-visit destination, totally in tune with the times.