Le 68, Paris: A feast for all senses

Le 68

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.