Photo Credit: Thai Toutain
Editor's note: This is a guest blog interview post by Haute Residence member KC Martin.
The idea of a laboratory, a unique space for creative infusion and thoughtful expertise, is what both 2 star Michelin Chef, David Toutain, and world-renown bespoke parfumeur, Blaise Mautin, share in common.
Their recent collaboration for the highly esteemed restaurant ‘David Toutain’ reaches new heights for the ultimate fine dining experience. Taste, texture, ambiance, and smell are all thoughtfully and meticulously redefined in the superlative dining experience at the newly opened ‘David Toutain’, located at 29 Rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris. +33 01.45.50.11.10
Photo Credit: Thai Toutain
David Toutain - Starting in Spain (Mugaritz) then to New York (Corton), and now in Paris, 2 Star Michelin Chef David Toutain expresses the most unique techniques and tastes in his cuisine d’excellence. In 2015, he acquired a first star in the Michelin Guide. In 2017, he was awarded 4 toques by the Gault & Millau guide and a Pudlowski Guide cook election of the year. In 2019, the Michelin Guide awarded him a second star, guaranteeing an exceptional cuisine after being guided as 2nd under chef of 3 Michelin Star, Alain Passard, of L'Arpège (Paris).
Photo Credit: Cecil Mathieu
Blaise Mautin - Blaise Mautin is one of the world’s most exclusive, bespoke perfumers. Based in Paris, with extensive fragrance schooling in Versailles, France, Blaise has spent almost a quarter of a century creating and perfecting the most incredible and elegant fragrances and bath lines for the finest private global clientele and for over 50 of the most exclusive and celebrated 5-star hotels around the world, including in France the exceptional 5-star Arielles Le Château de Versailles Le Grand Contrôle, 5-star Parc Hyatt - Paris Vendôme, 5-star Le Bristol Paris, and 5-star Chateau de la Messardière - St. Tropez.
The ‘David Toutain’ avant-garde dining experience begins with the Japanese tradition of ‘oshibori’ - a wet hand towel offered to customers and used to clean one’s hands before or after eating - a long-standing part of the hospitality culture in Japan. Cold, damp hand towels perfumed in the restaurant’s bespoke fragrance ‘David Toutain’ created by Mautin are offered upon arrival. Moreover, scented candles of the same bespoke scent are seen and smelled throughout the restaurant, including on the dining tables.
To the right of the entrance, a room awash in soft light opens onto a narrow corridor lined with various jars and display cases. Then, the chef's laboratory appears, like a dispensary, where herbs and condiments take precedence on the shelves. A kitchen laboratory between creation and tasting, this space becomes a gateway into a magical dining experience which is ‘David Toutain’.
Photo Credit: Cecil Mathieu
Q1. Gentlemen, it is such a pleasure to discover this new avenue of a luxury restaurant experience in ‘David Toutain’ (Paris). How did this collaboration come about between you? When was the idea born, and who sought out who?
DT: The idea to have a scent that can be identified with our restaurant had never been found until we met with Blaise Mautin. I met Mr. Mautin through our lawyer, and we just clicked. The experience of the restaurant is always evolving; whether it is on a plate, the design of the restaurant, and down to the simple flower arrangement. We want to give the maximum to our guests, and to our staff. There are many more ideas waiting to blossom, and we stay positive that this will arrive.
BM: I met Chef David Toutain through Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s lawyer, who is a great fan of my work. The experience we all had then was sincerely unique. David came to see me after lunch and we talked about our crafts. It seemed obvious that David was sincerely interested in my field of perfume and the essentials oils that I need to create my fragrances. I invited him to discover my fragrance lab and all of my essentials oils in Paris. This experience and discovery for David was the beginning of this successful first restaurant and fragrance collaboration.
Q2. David, tell me more about the concepts behind putting ‘David Toutain’ together. What are the dining experiences regarding the ingredients, textures, and menus that set ‘David Toutain’ apart from your restaurants in the past, and what is your vision for the experience of ‘David Toutain’ going forward?
DT: It has always been my dream to open my own restaurant. I took a year off after returning from traveling and spending time with my wife and son. I only had about 2 months to find my restaurant and make it work in Paris. The pressure was on and there was only one way, and that was going forward. I had probably visited about 30 restaurants before this restaurant found us. It was actually a restaurant my wife and I passed by a few times when we would take walks around Paris with our son. The dream and imagination had already started, without us knowing it. We imagined the color of the restaurant, the lighting, the guests, the food, the joy. The time was almost up when our broker called us and let us know that this space was available.
The concept of the restaurant is to showcase the seasonal ingredients with tasting menus. This gives us the freedom to create and adjust the menus depending on what is available at the markets and from our purveyors. I respect the past and my cuisine is modern with techniques with herbs and flowers. There is use of butter also, but still in a way that it doesn’t feel heavy. There are many menu products from Normandy, because I am from Normandy, and so I pay respect to it and to all of my experiences from my training and traveling. Now, at this time, I let it go and continue to improve for the guests, my team, and my cuisine.
Q3. Blaise, how long did it take for you to formulate the scent for ‘David Toutain’? What are the head, middle, and base notes that you used? And, what guided you to choose this specific combination of scents for the final bespoke fragrance creation?
BM: ‘David Toutain’ restaurant’s decoration is very pure and delicate. I wanted to present to David a very subtle fragrance based on the white flower fragrance which is a mixture between honeysuckle, rose, and Lily of the valley - the headnotes are based on the work of the honeysuckle flower’s delicate fragrance, the middle note has a hint of rose petals, and the base notes are the bewitching smell of the Lilly of the valley’s scent. Creating this bespoke fragrance took about 2 months.
Q4. David, you have some extraordinary, innovative cooking techniques that you focus on, creating mesmerizing dishes unique to the eye and to tasting such as ‘cucumber caviar’ and ‘smokey creams’, resulting in really unusual textures and tastes. Where do these techniques and flavourings come from, and are they completely your own creations?
DT: Ideas come to me naturally because in my head these flavours, textures, and temperatures work for me. Working with my team and sharing ideas are important aspects also; as are traveling, eating, tasting, experiencing life, and everything else in between. Further, I always remember the foundation of it all which is my grandmother, my mom, and my Normandy roots.
Photo Credit: Thai Toutain
Q5. Blaise, tell us about the idea of using bespoke fragrance candles in the restaurant. The dining public has often been discouraged, especially in Michelin restaurants, for many years from wearing perfumes when dining - sometimes to the point of excluding guests who desire to wear them as to not ‘interfere’ with the restaurant dining experience. The concept of a bespoke restaurant fragrance is a complete turnaround from this thought process. Tell us how embracing the fragrance experience in an exclusive restaurant envelops, rather than hinders, an exclusive dining experience.
BM: This is where I think David is a genius! He wants to give his guests an exclusive avant-garde experience above all from as soon as you arrive until the end when you leave. The idea of integrating fragrance in a Michelin star restaurant is another aspect of David that illustrates his extreme talent and willingness to take risks to achieve an ultimate dining experience at ‘David Toutain’.
The only thing you want to do is to come back to ‘David Toutain’ once you’ve been there. This place is truly amazing and so different from the traditional Michelin star restaurants.
Q6. What are some of the special reactions you’ve received from the dining public since opening ‘David Toutain’? Which one has been your favorite or the most surprising?
DT: It is always nice when the guests come back to our restaurant because that means they truly enjoyed the experience. My cuisine is personal, and to have clients enjoy it and recognise that, I am humbled.
BM: David Toutain’s work is beyond anything you’ve experienced before. I can assure you. I will let him explain the experience you have when you discover the smoky sauce he integrates with the eel and a special sweet wine from Austria. Every dish you experience at ‘David Toutain’ is incredible, and truly a ‘work of art’.
Q7. What are a few of your very favorite menu items at ‘David Toutain’? Please describe the preparation for these and the experience of the texture and taste involved in these dishes.
DT: There are a few classics that always remain on the menu such as the smoked eel, black sesame, and green apple; cauliflower, white chocolate, and coconut. Not a particular favorite of mine, but a dish that my son enjoys very much, is the egg, corn, and caraway seeds dish. This is a simple preparation of egg yolk cooked gently in its shell at 57 Celsius for 20 minutes, a mousse of corn that has been in flambé with whiskey, fresh corn and chive, and a caramel infused with caraway seeds to top it off. There’s a sweet, salt, fresh and different play of temperature and textures, and of course then memories.
BM: Every menu item at ‘David Toutain’ is exquisitely perfect..nothing further.
Q8. David, are the candles or bespoke fragrance available for guests at ‘David Toutain’ to purchase at the restaurant or online? If not, will this be something you’ll be considering in the future?
DT: We would like to share the candles with the guests in the future. It is a work in progress.
Q9. Do you feel that your collaborated bespoke restaurant fragrance trend will set a new precedence in the fine dining industry with other esteemed restaurants eventually following suit?
DT: It is important for me to be me and do what feels right. To work with Blaise Mautin feels very organic and natural, which I love. It is something nice and unique. If other restaurants and chefs want to follow suit, then yes, of course.
BM: David Toutain’s vision no doubt will be a great influence in the future for other gastronomic restaurants, you’ll see.
Q10. In each of your respective fields of haute cuisine and bespoke fragrance, you are both top experts. Please share a secret of your specialty that makes your expertise in it so unique.
DT: It is not a secret, but it is important to know your identity and to just be you, to be the very best of you.
BM: I believe when you put in a great deal of work along with your heart, love, and passion into something, you can move mountains.