Cooking simply in one of the world’s most lavish locales
My work as a chef has taken me to destinations across the globe, and in their own way each one has provided me with inspiration and fond memories, but one location stands out among all others. A few years ago, I was called to the South of France to cook for a client and his family at Chateau Miraval. This historic estate came to fame in recent years when it was purchased by celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for $60 million.
This place is beyond beautiful. It’s as if a postcard from the South of France came to life in every classic detail. Chateau Miraval includes exquisite gardens, fountains, a lake, stone terraces, olive groves and a world-renowned winery. The main estate building is surrounded by cottages (which easily exceed many homes I’ve lived in, in both size and elegance). Some of the structures on the property date back to the 17th Century. The main home includes 35 rooms, a professional kitchen and a formal dining area. I could have spent months there and not seen everything.
The family I worked for was hosting musicians who were recording in the Chateau Miraval’s recording studio. The studio was built in 1970 by French jazz pianist Jacques Loussier. It’s been used by hundreds of artists since then, including Pink Floyd, Sting and other musicians from all genres. I was privileged to cook three meals a day for the host family, musicians, and technical crew.
Despite the opulence that surrounded me, I was drawn to simple dishes. I happened to be there at harvest time and had access to unlimited local fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats. I’ve always believed the most beautiful things in life are simple, and here we were, in a French palace, savoring the simplest foods. I was in heaven!
It’s amazing to me how food and eating can create intimacy almost instantly. Often, I’ll be cooking for a client and someone will come in while I work and share in conversation and sample a bite of what I’m making. For clients who are well known, my kitchen is a welcome retreat from the glare of the public eye. It’s as if they take off a mask in the kitchen and are allowed to relax and be themselves.
This trip also afforded me the opportunity to visit Monaco, Marseille, and Nice, all breathtakingly beautiful cities known for their unique flavors. I may never return to Chateau Miraval, but I would love to return to the South of France again and work with those simple, heavenly ingredients.
Here are two recipes that take me back to the South of France. The first was a favorite of the Kelly family.
Mediterranean Lunch Salad
1 16 oz. Can Garbanzo Beans
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
1 Golden Beet
1 Red Beet
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
½ Cup Whole Wheat Quinoa and 1 Cup Water
¼ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper and Red Pepper Flakes to taste
1 Medium Size Carrot, grated
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley
- Preheat oven to 400°
- Rinse and dry the Garbanzo beans; dry well. The spread the beans on a baking sheet and mix in 1 TBSP Coconut Oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crunchy.
- While the beans are cooking, cut the tops from the Golden Beets and Red Beets (cut in half if they are large)
- Wrap each group of Red and Golden beats separately in aluminum foil.
- After you remove the Garbanzo beans, increase oven to 425°
- Roast beets in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until al dente; tender, but not mushy. Then remove the beets from the oven and let cool.
- While beets are cooking, boil the Quinoa in 1 cup of water with 1 TBSP of the Olive Oil; add black pepper and Red Pepper Flakes to taste. B oil and simmer until water evaporates.
- Remove beets from the stove.
- Grate the carrot and put aside
- Chop 1 TBSP fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/8 Cup Champagne Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Raw Honey
1/8 Teaspoon salt
¼ Teaspoon black pepper
¼ Cup Olive Oil
In a blender, mix all the ingredients until smooth (except the Olive Oil). Then slowly add the Olive Oil to emulsify.
- On a large plate, arrange the Garbanzo beans in a circular pattern on the outside of the plate. Then, working inward, add the beets and carrots. Place the Quinoa in the middle.
- Gently pour the dressing over the salad items on the plate and decorate with chopped parsley.
Chef Zipora’s Tel Aviv Chicken
1 Medium Onion, diced to 1”
2 Clove Garlic, finely chopped
1 Green Pepper, diced to 1”
4 oz White Mushroom, thinly sliced
4 oz. artichoke hearts
1 Ts each: curry powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, red pepper flakes
½ Ts Allspice
½ Ts Black Pepper
1 15 oz. can stewed Tomatoes
1 Ts tomato paste
4 Organic Chicken Thighs (no skin, bone in)
2-3 Medium sized Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut in 4 pieces each
1-2 Cups Water
- In a medium size pan, heat up 1 TB olive oil on medium heat. Then add onion and green pepper. Sauté until soft.
- Add mushroom, artichoke hearts and cook for 4-5 minutes
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, Allspice, pepper and the spices; curry powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, red pepper flakes. Then cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add chicken and potatoes. Add water to chicken until 1/2 covered. Then add lid to loosely cover pot and cook for 40-45 minutes until chicken is tender.