SOHEIT TINLOT: It is a Tuesday evening and for the first time ever, Alexandre Dionisio, chef of La Villa in the Sky, a two Michelin star restaurant with a breathtaking view of Brussels, is cooking outside his kitchen at a four hands dinner.
Christophe Pauly, chef of Le Coq aux Champs, managed to convince him to leave the Brussels tower where the restaurant is housed to cook together. “We had travelled together, got to know each other and we promised each other we cook together. I really enjoyed it and I don’t think it is going to be the last four hands dinner,” Alexandre Dionisio told Food and Wine Gazette.
This is the second season of what chef Pauly calls a round trip in which he invites Belgian chefs to cook with him at his restaurant and then visits them at their restaurants a few months later.
“Apart from inviting chefs who I admire, I try to invite people who I get on well with and who have a similar vision. It does not have to be the same vision but it has to be coherent,” Pauly told Food and Wine Gazette.
Dionisio rose to fame for his appearance in the French television competition Top Chef in 2010. He clinched a Michelin star within 5 months of opening his first restaurant before moving to La Villa in the Sky. The second star came two years later.
“We will have another chapter in Brussels. I told chef Pauly that despite the fact that this was the first ever time we cooked together it felt like we had been cooking together for ever. The ambience was great and the menu really worked but I knew this would be the case because Christophe’s cuisine is based on taste and flavours and is also very seasonal,” Dionisio said.
The two chefs met two weeks ago to prepare the menu and then discussed over the phone.
The end result was a coherent menu from the amuse bouches to the starters and main courses that was barely noticeable.
After the amuse bouches which includes a sweet and savoury crisp of mushrooms, kohlrabi with haddock and yogurt and a perfect egg with smoked salmon and caviar served with a toasted brioche it was Alexandre’s turn to serve the first dish.
He prepared a perfect tartare of beef with different textures of mushrooms and topped it with a granita of oyster. It was an excellent combination to start the evening.
Christophe then prepared scallops with old parmesan and truffles from Alba. A classic combination of flavours taken to the next level.
Alexandre then prepared one of his signature dishes, the Fabada or Spanish cassoulet with beans, chorizo, pork and small calamari. A comfort food dish also taken to the next level with a play on flavours and textures. It is a dish that he changes from time to time but which remains popular among his guests.
For main course, Christophe went seasonal and served autumn on a plate. Here he opted to serve roe perfectly cooked roe on a wood fire together with celeriac, chestnuts and salsify. Excellent flavours and perfect presentation.
For dessert, Alexandre worked with a caramel, passion fruit and yoghurt ice-cream to give a certain freshness after the main course while Christophe prepared a chocolate mousse with a smoke ice-cream.
Christophe was pleased at the end of the evening. “I was sure it would work well despite the fact that this was Alexandre’s first ever four hands dinner. We had a good time but before thinking of inviting a chef I think of inviting a fried and someone whose identity I like. I always believe that a four hands dinner should not be a competition or a battle of egos. The client should enjoy a coherent menu and many experience someone else’s cooking which they might not be familiar with.”
Christophe said that with these series of events he wants to give his guests the possibility to try another chef’s cooking. “For me, what’s most important is to create a liaison and strengthen a friendship. For example, after the events with Filip Claeys, we now phone each other regularly. It creates a bond and this is really important. Such events also help the team to gain a new experience and helps me to learn from others which is what life is all about,” he said.