Travel 3 minutes 22 February 2024

The Peninsula Paris’s Perfect Pair: Chef David Bizet & Sommelier Florent Martin

Meet the duo from L'Oiseau Blanc, who have mastered the art of pairing food and wine like few else have managed

Paris by The MICHELIN Guide

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The art of pairing food and wine is an integral part of fine dining. More nuanced than many realise, pairing the two is the link between the kitchen and the wine cellar, an echo of the relationship between Chef and Sommelier. This backbone of the restaurant was most apparent when we met Chef David Bizet and Sommelier Florent Martin in their light-filled restaurant, the Two MICHELIN Starred L’Oiseau Blanc inside The Peninsula Paris.

Two of a Kind

The pair first met in 2009 at the George V. After being born in Corsica, Martin moved to London and Monaco, before taking up a post at the George V, where Bizet was working as Sous Chef. From their first encounter, Martin hit it off with “one of the few chefs with whom I could really exchange ideas, and who became a partner in blind tastings”. Bizet, who likes “clear, subtle cooking that respects the flavour of the ingredients”, discovered his passion for wine at hotel management school. “I still remember my first class on Alsace wines, which was a revelation!" he says. "From that moment on, I knew this would be an important part of my work, because the culture of wine is deeply intertwined with cooking."

Presently, wine plays a crucial role in L’Oiseau Blanc’s dining experience, as well as in the chef’s creative process. Most of the dishes are forged in the chef’s imagination before Martin’s wine expertise comes into play, but some evolve as a response to the sommelier’s suggestions. “What we cook and how we cook it can counterbalance certain flavours," Martin says. "For example, if I have a wine that tastes too strongly of alcohol, the Chef will compensate with acidity and bitterness; and if I have a wine that’s too acidic, we’ll bring back some sweetness. For instance, one day the Chef decided to add a side dish (oyster tartare) to a meat dish to bring out the freshness of the Château Palmer 2008 that we wanted to serve with it.”

David Bizet and Florent Martin
David Bizet and Florent Martin

Raising a Glass to the Winemakers

For the past few years, the duo have embarked on regular expeditions to visit their winemakers and taste different wines. “These trips are essential for what we do," says Bizet. "It’s the best way for us to understand a wine, i.e. through the personality of its producer – and to discover what they eat with their different wines.” But these trips also provide the opportunity for the man with Two MICHELIN Stars to his name to devise a set menu based entirely on the wines tasted; a menu in which the dishes are adapted to the selected vintages and is then served at the special events they have dubbed L’Envolée Gourmande.

“We wanted to create something unique and original so that the wines could express themselves," he explains. "It’s true that it’s totally innovative to do things this way round. To do this work, we use our gourmet memory bank: we put flavours in boxes and when we taste a wine we ask ourselves which dish we could pair it with. It’s a game for us!”

The enthusiasm felt by both the Chef and the Sommelier is plain to see as they excitedly describe the genesis of their dishes. “Take the example of sweetbreads," says the latter. "We had gone to see Olivier Collin in the south of Champagne. He told David Bizet all about his history and had him taste his products, in particular the Les Maillons wine – which inspired the Chef to create this dish,” Florent explains. David elaborates: “It’s a wine with a lot of texture, something we’re going to find reflected in the chewiness of the sweetbreads. Then, to respect the finesse of the wine, we incorporated a salty aspect into the dish with anchovy – and added a little sorrel to tie in with the vegetable quality of the champagne’s aromas.”

In Bizet’s cuisine, wine doesn’t play second fiddle. “Beyond the cuisine, there’s also a human aspect that only becomes possible through meeting people," he says. "It’s moving when you get a sense that they are putting as much passion into producing wine as we are into our cooking.” And maybe that’s the lesson here. Cooking is all about synergy: between the ingredients that make up a recipe; between the dish and the wine that accompanies it, and most of all between the Chef and those around them, especially the Sommelier.

The Chef then talks about the second dish to be brought out of the kitchen to the table where we're talking. “Red mullet was already on the menu, but we’ve adapted it to match the wine we’ve selected from Pierre Gauthier’s Bourgueil estate. For example, we have elements such as bottarga and beetroot, which, respectively, distil a bitterness and a fruity-vegetable aspect that echo the cabernet.”

David and Florent’s Selection

Thibaud Boudignon’s Anjou Blanc 'À Françoise'
“We fell for this accessible chenin from Anjou, which has great finesse and is as tasty as it is brilliantly made.”

Matthieu Barret’s Cornas 'Billes Noires'
“A terrific winemaker on a human level, who produces a wine that feels full and indulgent in the mouth and has a pronounced fruity character that reflects his distinctive style.”

Comando G’s La Bruja de Rozas Wine
“A family-run estate in the Madrid region that only works with Grenache grapes from old vines planted at a slight altitude (600m). Their wines are truly delicate and subtle.”

All photos in this article are by Florian Domergue.


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