Le 68 in the basement of the Guerlain flagship store on the Champs Elysées is one of my favourite restaurants in Paris and it’s easy to see — and smell, and taste! — why. The joint project of Guy Martin, one of the most famous French chefs, and Thierry Wasser, the “nose” of Guerlain, have teamed up to create a unique restaurant where gastronomy meets the world of perfume. With an elegant setting with Baccarat crystal chandeliers, tables depicting the flowers used in Guerlain’s signature perfume and a fragranced menu, it’s literally a feast for all senses.
IRMA asked both the star chef and the Guerlain master perfumer some questions.
IRMA: When you start creating a dish/a scent, what comes first to your mind?
Thierry Wasser: It all starts with a story. I’m telling it with scents instead of words. That’s what comes first to my mind.
Guy Martin: The creation is in my mind and my heart. I eat the dish in my mind with all the crunchy, crispy and bitter tastes before making it in the kitchen.
IRMA: Does it help to close your eyes when you are tasting/smelling something to really get the essence stronger? Can you create a vision out of a sense?
Thierry Wasser: Yes, I do close my eyes when I smell. It helps me to be focused and actually I can’t tolerate any sound around me either when I smell. I wouldn’t call it a vision but I definitely need a black and silent environment to be focused.
Guy Martin: It all begins before. I have the chance to know all lot of products with a cuisine with no taboo.
IRMA: How important is a cooler to you?
Guy Martin: It’s the basis. I cook only fresh products and local, if possible.
IRMA: The restaurant and the perfumerie are very special places and the visual almost becomes key. Is that also a guideline for you, does it help or is it rather distracting when you create something?
Thierry Wasser: Telling a story, as I said before, means that all your senses are alerted: the sight, the ear, the touch for textures… So the visual sense is important to a certain extent if your story is very descriptive. And if you go on something much more abstract, it is less important.
Guy Martin: We have to let our imagination go — no barriers, just give the best.
IRMA: Your favorite taste/smell?
Thierry Wasser: It is not a secret that I’m truly intoxicated by the rose from Bulgaria.
Guy Martin: Everything. I like all that is good.
IRMA: Where do you get the most creative energy?
Thierry Wasser: Definitely in my sourcing trips.
Guy Martin: From painting, life, exhibits, a smile.
IRMA: What book are you reading at the moment?
Thierry Wasser: I’m reading a book about smugglers and sandalwood in the 19th century.
Guy Martin: Many books such as Michel Houellebecq’s “La possibilité d’une Ile” and “Etre sans destin” by Imre Kertész.
IRMA: Your favorite spot in Paris for spring?
Thierry Wasser: Jardin de Bagatelle
Guy Martin: The terrace of the Cristal Room Baccarat, the smallest in Paris, a table so romantic, for two people.