30/07/2008 - 22:00

Class operator’s classic view

30/07/2008 - 22:00


Save articles for future reference.

Alain Fabregues is a classic bon vivant.

Class operator’s classic view
TRIED AND TESTED: Alain Fabregues picked the eyes out of molecular cuisine during a recent month-long study with a consultant.

Alain Fabregues is a classic bon vivant.

Amid the emerging industry discussion about molecular cuisine and its potential to reinvigorate the local restaurant scene, Mr Fabregues has taken a pragmatic approach befitting his position as proprietor and head chef of The Loosebox, one of Perth's premier fine-dining establishments.

Having recently spent a month working with a molecular cooking consultant, Mr Fabregues has decided to stick with his 'cuisine for pleasure' methodology.

The molecular cuisine movement is based on a scientific discipline involving the study of physical and chemical processes that occur in cooking.

"You have the cuisine for survival, cuisine as an artform, cuisine as a pleasure, and molecular cuisine, which is more a cuisine for the senses," Mr Fabregues told Gusto.

"Your eyes and your pallet are not good enough for this type of cuisine, which aims to awaken some parts of your brain."

But he says he is not sure whether Australia is ready for the whole dining experience associated with the concept.

"My friend Paul Bocuse was telling me that he went to the Fat Duck [Michelin star restaurant renowned for using molecular concepts] in the UK and he said the maître d comes to your table at the beginning of the dinner and asks the customers to close their eyes, to imagine that they are in the forest, to feel their bare feet on the soil and the wind in their hair...15 minutes of talk before you can put a spoon of jelly in your face," Mr Fabregues says.

"I can't imagine putting people through that kind of torture."

The molecular cuisine concept, which has all curious chefs around the world talking, can only survive in a city with a large pool of people, according to the renowned restaurateur.

'In a place like Paris where you have 14 million people living, it's not very difficult to find 40 people to do it, but in Perth, you want people to come back to your restaurant," he says.

"And I don't think it should be in the realm of French classicism that I do, food has to be more than air inside a bubble."

Mr Fabregues says some techniques of molecular cuisine have proved appropriate for use in his restaurant, after he adapted them to suit his classic approach.

But classicism doesn't mean conservationism for Mr Fabregues, who is introducing some changes at the Loosebox.

For the duration of the truffle season, the restaurant is trialling a menu without a la carte with three degustation menus - the truffle menu, the vegetarian menu and the winter menu.

"We'll decide in September if we want to keep it that way, I think people are familiar enough with degustation menus now to make it work," Mr Fabregues says.

Well known as one who cultivates most of the vegetables he uses in his restaurant, it's no surprise that Mr Fabregues, who is among the biggest consumers of truffles in the country - two kilos a week in season - has established his own truffle farm, located in Toodyay.

He planted five kilometres of trees (inoculated) on the 16-hectare farm and will be selling the trees he hasn't planted at the Mundaring Truffle Festival this weekend (August 1 and 2).

"People plant them and should get truffles within three years; then they have to get a dog to find them," he says.

Mr Fabregues opened The Loosebox in 1980 and operates it with his wife, Elizabeth.

He holds the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France: Cuisine Restauration, a title bestowed by the president of France and awarded to only about 100 chefs since the 1920s.

He has twice been awarded the French equivalent of a knighthood - Chevalier dans L'Ordre du Mérite Agricole and Chevalier dans L'Ordre National du Mérite.


Subscription Options