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Benoît Vidal

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#Benoît Vidal

A new adventure
Nov. 2023
5 min.

“I chose a profession where it never feels like work”, Benoît Vidal

Benoît Vidal earned two Michelin stars for his restaurant in Val d’Isère, winning a stellar reputation as he tantalized his customers’ taste buds for over twelve years. Even with a bright future and his destiny laid out before him, sometimes chance works wonders. He recently set foot in Annecy-le-Vieux, taking over the reins of the Auberge Sur Les Bois restaurant, which in mid-November will become La Maison Benoît Vidal.

As he approaches fifty years of age, a new chapter begins for this charismatic chef who brought most of his crew along for the adventure.

Benoît Vidal

© Snowline / Benoît Vidal

The chef’s kitchen, forging a bond between people and nature

The restaurant sits along the edge of the woods, in harmony with the chef’s view that cooking creates a strong bond between people, nature, and the seasons.

In Val d’Isère, while the austerity of the high-mountain location inspired his cooking, he admits to sometimes having felt like he had to swim upstream to simply stay afloat. “While the harsh weather and climate, the vertical terrain, and the sheer power of the elements made for a truly spectacular, inspiring, yet hostile environment, unwavering determination was required to face the often brutal conditions in order to reach my goals. I simply became used to this way of life,” says Benoît.

Maison Benoît Vidal

© Sabine Bijasson / Maison Benoît Vidal

From the edge of the woods to the shores of the lake

Arriving in Annecy-le-Vieux opens up new horizons, and resonates like an ode to Mother Nature’s softer, more generous side, perfectly in sync with the chef’s sunnier side. The landscapes, both the lake and the mountains, are milder, and the four seasons much more pronounced, as if an invitation to explore an ever-changing range of flavors.

“I have found a place that feels like me, along the edge of the forest and away from the pell-mell of the city. It was love at first sight and I knew that this was the place for the next chapter of my life. Since Daniel Baratier also felt the need to answer the call of new adventure, the change of hands went smoothly. I can’t wait to meet all of the local growers and producers that everyone has told me about, to stroll through the forest gathering plants and mushrooms, and to welcome my very first guests…”

Culinary creation

© Snowline / Culinary creation

Maison Benoît Vidal

The chef receives guests without fanfare or ceremony, only with the desire to share a special moment with them. Like in Val d’Isère, the establishment has both a bistro, with two and three-course meals starting at €29, and the gourmet restaurant where three-course meals include names like “Jour de Cuisine” (Time to Cook), “Graines d’eau” (Water seeds), “Des sources or racines” (From springs to roots), and “Sentier à fleur d’eau” (Path along the water), a vegetarian option. Benoît creates meals as if strolls through the woods, where wild plants gathered or grown in the area (elderberry, hogweed, sorrel, meadowsweet, sweet clover, meridian fennel…) enhance local products. Walking along the paths and trails to transform and showcase the surrounding environment through unique culinary creations, like an orchestra for the senses that Benoît composes and directs.

Culinary creation

© Snowline / Culinary creation

“Cooking to become a man! And then continuing to cook to maintain a childlike sense of wonder.” This is the chef’s underlying theme; he remains a dreamer who has fun integrating into his cooking memories from a childhood filled with fantastical stories where fun and masterful technique go hand in hand. We could easily nickname him, “Benoit the Enchanter,” for the way he mesmerizes guests by bringing them into his incredibly imaginative world. Sweet nibbles such as chocolates filled with notes from the forest, and candied mandarin peels sprinkled hogweed seeds prolong the amazing experience.

Dedication and commitment

Being environmentally conscious and aware of the fragile ecosystem, placing a bit more emphasis on our “bond” with nature, Benoît – worried about the world our children will inherit – stays committeed to sustainability day after day. He takes advantage every part of an animal, using subprimal cuts at the bistro and prime cuts at the gourmet restaurant; he uses trimmings and peels are to make broth, chips, powders, and condiments. The restaurant’s garden grows a variety of herb and spices, and also includes a compost pile. Benoît only uses fresh ingredients and local products, a great way to keep the restaurant’s carbon footprint to a minimum.

These initiatives, among others, illustrate the chef’s philosophy to do his part in reducing food waste and in harnessing the full potential of every resource. “Common sense pushes us to be evermore creative.” He has started down the “eco-table” path, seeking to promote sustainable restaurants that implement an environmentally and socially responsible approach.

A culinary masterpiece

© Snowline / A culinary masterpiece

Benoît likes to play and experiment, always looking to integrate green solutions into his creative process. For his dessert “Le Soleil Vert” (Soylent Green) – a nod to the cult film from the 1970s that tackled the problems associated with overpopulation and environmental impact – he created a topping with potato trimmings and safran cooked in a “homemade” solar oven. A dessert made with celery sorbet and sorrel, a sweet apple that wraps itself around the sorbet when the hot topping is poured, and a few fresh herbs.

You nurture those you love

A humanist at heart, Benoît places people at the center of his attention. His philosophy and continuous effort to ensure that people work well together, along with his kind approach, makes for an incredibly well-managed kitchen.

Day to day, he keeps a careful eye on his crew’s well-being, creating a harmonious work environment conducive to excellence, where everyone receives guidance for professional development and fulfillment. In return, several staff members followed him on this new adventure in Annecy. Since generously giving one’s time, attention, and smile often proves the key to receiving back more than one could possibly imagine, his most loyal customers – those who traveled every year to Val d’Isère with gifts and presents – have already reserved a table in Annecy-le-Vieux, jumping at the opportunity to stop by on their way to their winter sports destination.

With such a strong bond created, Benoît’s clientele reflects exactly who he is: extremely generous!

Maison Benoît Vidal

© Sabine Bijasson / Maison Benoît Vidal

Maison Benoît Vidal

Sur Les Bois (Annecy-le-Vieux) – 79 route de Thônes – ANNECY

Tel. +33 (0)4 50 88 73 18

 

Maison Benoît Vidal

 

  • For the gourmet restaurant (open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and for lunch Wednesday through Saturday)

“Jour de cuisine” €65 (lunch only). “Graines d’eau” €165 (every lunch and dinner). “Des Sources aux racines” €195 (every dinner and lunch on Saturday). “Sentier à fleur d’eau” €175 (vegetarian version every lunch and dinner).

 

  • For the bistro (open Tuesday through Saturday, lunch only)

A less formal, gourmet approach with a different selection and suggestions every week. Choose a two or three-course meal. The cooking features local seasonal products and ingredients gathered from the area.

Appetizer + main dish or main dish + dessert for €29. Appetizer + main dish + dessert for €35. Vegetarian option upon request.

Copyright:

  • © Sabine Bijasson / Benoît Vidal

Journalist: Aude Pollet-Thiollier

Translation: Darin Reisman