Visiting the Musée Bourdelle and then a lunch or coffee break at its restaurant Le Rhodia is one of the best things to do in Paris.
A few steps away from Montparnasse Station, in the heart of the 15arrondissement, is the charming Musée Bourdelle, one of the great hidden treasures that Paris reserves for its inhabitants and visitors. Dedicated to the famous sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, the renovated museum has new scenographic and interactive features, a well-formulated route for viewing the works, several workshops for adults and children, and two beautiful gardens.
Located where there used to be the former apartment of Rhodia Dufet-Bourdelle, daughter of the sculptor Bourdelle, today is the Le Rhodia café-restaurant.
This space, which was transformed in 1947 by Art Deco master Michel Dufet, has large windows with a view of the famous inner garden. The furniture is unique and designed to restore the domestic character of the old apartment, using materials such as stone, clay and wood, in honor of the work of Antoine Bourdelle. The space is enhanced by touches of modernism and contemporary design.
Le Rhodia, headed by chef Jean-René Chassignol, is undoubtedly a place of conviviality. It will be open all day long, from 10am to 6pm, with a menu that will change throughout the day, from breakfast to late afternoon and even a nice brunch on the weekend.
The cuisine combines dishes that recall Antoine Bourdelle’s native southwest but also other international cuisines in a tribute to the bonds between the master and his South American students. Chef Chassignol, a lover of Latin America, presents us with ceviches, empanadas, and other specialties that will evolve according to the day and the seasons. Everything is made in house, with a responsible and healthy approach to cooking. The restaurant also focuses on organic ingredients and local artisans.
Besides the room with a view of the internal garden, there is a huge L-shaped terrace with views of the museum’s front garden.
Le Rhodia’s enchanting setting makes for a very eclectic and international public, we see many visitors from the museum, but also locals and people who work in the neighborhood, all looking for a moment of peace and beauty.
Below is the interview we did with Chef Jean-René Chassignol when we had the opportunity to have lunch in his delicious restaurant after an idyllic visit to the museum.
1. What inspired you to become a chef, and how do you get started in the culinary industry?
JR: I always had the idea to work in the food sector. It comes from my young age. I was raised as a only child si I had time to « dream and think » and one of my dream was to receive a lot of people at home with good food. My parents did not have a strong cooking culture and for me it was a big a part of being French so to feel connecting to my roots I studied food history and I started to cook. At the same time, I noticed early that the people I admired were good cook so I wanted to “be as them”.
2. How would you describe your cooking style, and what sets your dishes apart from others?
JR: For me the French food has a lot to do with integration of other cultures. With the connexion of France to a lot of countries, the French food has been inspired by the food discovered in other countries. I created ISANA with this in mind. I wanted to create a restaurant with true roots of South American food but twisteed in my own way, that’s why the « UN goût d’Amérique Latine ». I like as well the food that is not pretentious, with my cooking I wanted just to give back to the food its main purpose : create a sustainable food in all the aspects : tasty, colourfool, healthy, easy to make avoiding food waste
3. How do you source and select ingredients for your menu, and what factors do you consider when creating new dishes?
JR: We use mostly organic vegetables and fruits. When I create a dish I consider the season of course. I developp a new project, Pachamanca, where the vegetabe take 65% of the dish and the dishes are validated by expert in nutrition. So the healthy aspect takes part in the creation of new dishes.
4. How do you ensure consistency and quality in the dishes you serve and how do you maintain an affordable price to keep your audience loyal?
JR: I tried to make dishes with good taste and easy to prepare. I use quite standard ingredient but with good quality, organic or with label. For example, as we use organic ingredients, we do not peel the vegetables or if we peel, then we use the peels for the soup when it is possible.
5. How do you handle dietary restrictions and special requests from customers, and what steps do you take to accommodate their needs?
JR In the South American food, it is mostly gluten free. So our cooking is mostly gluten free appart from the empanadas. We always propose vegan and vegetarian dishes but we are not very focus en the dietary restrictions at ISANA. On the other and, at Pachamanca, all the food we propose is gluten and diary free. At Rhodia, the restaurant at the Bourdelle Museum, the food has as well somme French influence as Bourdelle was from Montauban and lived his life in Paris but I follow the guidelines I have at ISANA.
6. What do you consider to be your signature dish, and how did you come up with the recipe?
JR: At ISANA, I would say it is the piscosour. The idea of this dessert came from the peruvian cocktail, the piscosour. It is a mousse made with all the ingredient of the cocktail : pisco, canne sugar, green lemon, with egg and ice of course. To make a dessert and a steady mousse, I add coco milk. At Rhodia, I would say it is the pink brioche made with beetroot and rose water, served with a whipped cream flavoured with orange blossom water. This dessert brings us to the 3 gardens of the museum with the rose and orange blossom and it is a conforting dessert.
7. How do you stay current with industry trends and developments, and what steps do you take to innovate and keep your menu fresh? Is there anything new in gastronomy that impresses you?
JR: The trends will be to make food with the less impact on the environnement. To make tasty and healthy food and create restaurant that brings a real experience to the customers.
8. How do you balance creativity with profitability, and what strategies do you use to manage food costs and maximize revenue?
JR: If you maintain an affordable price and audience loyal then your restaurant is full and then it is the way to maximise your revenues. Being popular is the key success to reduce as much as you can the impact of the fixed cost that are high in the food industry and to concentrate the cost on food ingredients and HR
9. In your opinion what is the next “trending” cuisine either because it is not yet known or because of its ingredients?
JR: For me the next trending cuisine will come from India as now, we have access only to a little part of their cuisine and the connexion of some of Indian cuisine such as ayurvedic to what we look for with the food now such as healthy, veggi and tasty cuisine makes me think it twill be the next trends.
10. What advice would you give to aspiring chefs who are just starting out in the culinary industry?
JR: To create a sincere project and to be conscious of the effort and the cost of what they will do so they do not get stucked in the middle of the way.
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