Young French chef opens restaurant across the Atlantic

The menu, chef, ambiance, and name are the same, but there are a few subtle differences between the Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris and the new Restaurant Guy Savoy in Greenwich, Conn.

Not that twin restaurants need be identical. But when a much-celebrated young French chef opens a restaurant across the ocean, it not only makes waves, it brings up the usual questions: Is it really the same and, if so, how does he do it?

One way Guy Savoy does it is to fly back and forth between Paris and New York , spending the last weekend of each month supervising the new restaurant and cooking special eight-course dinners on those two evenings.

Style and quality are maintained, also, by sending chefs trained in the Paris kitchens to Connecticut. Yves Gonnachon, former sous-chef in Paris, opened the restaurant a year ago and stayed on until October, when Jean-Louis Gerin arrived to be the permanent chef.

Like many of today's young French chefs, Jean Louis Gerin has worked at several celebrated two- and three-star restaurants in France. In 1977 he worked at the three-star Oustau de Baumaniere and later with Guy Savoy at the Barriere de Clichy and the Paris Guy Savoy.

Other French members of the staff are pastry chef and baker Didier Roque and maitre d' Jean-Michel Montague.

When asked to compare the menus of the two restaurants, Chef Savoy said they are much the same except for the amount of food served at lunch. American eating habits at noon differ from the French, he said.

''In France, people often spend two or more hours at lunch, and the same menu is used for both lunch and dinner. This means a large meal at noon with several courses, as at dinner in the evening.

''Here, people demand lighter, faster, and simpler food at noon,'' Mr. Savoy said.

So although he tried the French way when he first opened in Greenwich, he soon realized it wouldn't work. Now, in addition to a la carte selections, there is a three-course business lunch at a fixed price of $20. There are also specials at lunch and a la carte main courses at both lunch and dinner from $9. 50 to $25.

At dinner the menu is more sophisticated. There is a seven-course tasting in the form of many small portions and a four-course dinner, including dessert, called a prestige menu at $45 a person. Reservations are necessary.

As a convenience for those on a tight schedule, menu selections may be ordered in advance by telephone to avoid waiting.

Last summer Chef Savoy prepared a special dinner for the food press at the historic Beechwood mansion in Newport, R.I.

Served in the candlelit ballroom, the dinner started with a lobster soup that was not a soup at all. It was chunks of lobster arranged on a small amount of velvety sauce with a few slender spears of asparagus, peas, and cranberries. The lobster was tender and sweet, the sauce perfect, and the plate looked beautiful.

Next we were served a moist, very thin, escallop of salmon, surrounded by a delicate green parsley sauce. It was also delicious and very attractive.

The entree was an elegant combination of sweetbreads, leeks, truffles, and fois gras with one of the Chef Savoy's famous ''nonsauce'' sauces.

Chef Savoy is known for his ''cuisine sans sauce'' - which means he doesn't believe in the heavy rich sauces of classic French cooking. He explains it this way.

''The most important thing in any kind of cooking is that the main ingredient is of prime importance. Sauces should enhance these main ingredients, and those roles should never be reversed.

''A dish of mussels and wild mushrooms, for example, has a sauce with the juices of those mussels and mushrooms. We round out those juices with butter, but the main flavor and volume of the sauce come from the primary ingredient.''

Chef Savoy doesn't believe in long, complicated recipes. Although he is classically trained, as are many of the new young French chefs, he is not unduly impressed by reverence for the culinary past.

He opened his Paris restaurant four years ago, and it was soon awarded a star in the Guide Michelin and a rating of 18 out of a possible 20 from the Gault-Millau guide.

Since childhood he has always wanted to be a chef, and both his father, a horticulturist, and his mother, an innkeeper, were encouraging and inspiring, he said.

Apprenticed three years to the Troisgros brothers in Lyons, Chef Savoy was greatly influenced by the brothers' skill and impeccable taste.

''I learned also to work hard. That is the important thing,'' he said.

Chef Savoy is impressed with much of the food and produce in the United States although some herbs, fresh truffles, and fresh mushrooms are flown from France.

''But I like the monkfish and crawfish, and your sweetbreads and beef are of the finest quality,'' he said.

Chef Jean-Louis is also pleased with American ingredients, especially the new American foie gras which, although not quite the same as that in France, is very good and cooks well. He serves the fresh goose liver sauteed.

Guy Savoy insists his cooking is not Nouvelle Cuisine but ''Cuisine Moderne.'' Whatever the name, his food is individual and creative. Bavaroise aux Airelles (Cranberry Bavarian) 1 pound fresh cranberries 1/2 cup honey 10 egg yolks 1 1/3 cups sugar 3 cups milk 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin 1/3 cup cold water 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped 3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Cook cranberries in honey about 5 minutes. Cool and set aside. In a saucepan, beat egg yolks with sugar and 1 cup of milk until well blended. Stir in remaining milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats back of a wooden spoon. Do not boil. Stir in vanilla.

Mix gelatin and water. Stir this mixture into hot custard until gelatin is dissolved. Cool, then chill until mixture mounds. Fold in whipped cream, beaten egg whites.

Fold in cranberries and juice. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart container and freeze several hours until hard. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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