Marc Veyrat: The making of a Grand Chef

Bringing his passion for the mountains into every delicious bite, chef Marc Veyrat of Manigod is a star on the French culinary scene.  Read about his journey to reach this envied position.

“Ours is a cooking style based completely on the surrounding environment.  We harvest our plants in the mountains, three times per week.  We also have a culinary school, where we work with François Couplan, the world´s top botanist.  Therefore, nearly all of our dishes are created using these mountain plants as the base.  We also take into account modern-day values and techniques, using local products that we improve here and there, because I like the mix."

If there is a chef who has succeeded in incorporating the taste of the mountains into his dishes, it is without contest Marc Veyrat - who traded in his traditional chef´stoque for his signature black savoyard chapeau.

Veyrat grew up in the small village of Manigold, surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains of Savoy, between La Clusaz and the Aravis.  From early on, his passion for the family farm, the animals, and the land was evident.  His interest in the culinary arts coincided with the opening, by his mother and grandmother, of a gîte for hunters on the family farm.  He decided to undertake the classical training to become a chef, but the idea fell flat.  He was turned away from two establishments, and the director of his hospitality school explained that he was not cut out for the job.  At 19, he returned to the family farm to become a herdsman and ski instructor.  But his dreams of becoming a great chef pursued him.  Ten years later, he opened his first bistro, at the Col de la Croix Fry, with the cookbook “La Cuisine du Marché” by his friend, the patriarch of lyonnaise cuisine Paul Bocuse, as his bible.  Led by his own imagination and creativity, he began creating dishes using the traditional flavours of the mountains, with sometimes fruitless, sometimes surprising, results. 

Veyrat grew up in the small village of Manigold, surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains of Savoy, between La Clusaz and the Aravis.  From early on, his passion for the family farm, the animals, and the land was evident.  His interest in the culinary arts coincided with the opening, by his mother and grandmother, of a gîte for hunters on the family farm.  He decided to undertake the classical training to become a chef, but the idea fell flat.  He was turned away from two establishments, and the director of his hospitality school explained that he was not cut out for the job.  At 19, he returned to the family farm to become a herdsman and ski instructor.  But his dreams of becoming a great chef pursued him.  Ten years later, he opened his first bistro, at the Col de la Croix Fry, with the cookbook “La Cuisinedu Marché” by his friend, the patriarch of lyonnaise cuisine Paul Bocuse, as his bible.  Led by his own imagination and creativity, he began creating dishes using the traditional flavours of the mountains, with sometimes fruitless, sometimes surprising, results.

The next chapter of his story is nothing short of a fairy tale.  Driven by his passion, his energy, and an appetite for risk, he sold his property and animals to open his first restaurant in Annecy in 1983, and received his first star in 1985.  Less than 10 years later, he has risen to the heights of French – and international – gastronomy, with three Michelin stars and the title of  “Best Chef of the Year” according to the American magazine Wine Spectator, an essential reference in the business.  Veyrat continues to open new establishments, never ceasing to innovate.  His career has been an incredible journey, fed by an extraordinary energy.  He has never once turned his back on his mountain roots - quite the contrary, he displays them proudly.  This child of Manigold, once advised against pursuing the career of a chef, was the first to be twice awarded three stars in the Michelin, at Megève and Veyrier. He remains the only chef to have received a grade of 20/20 at Gault Millau.

A skiing accident in 2009 obliged him to return his stars, take some time out and focus on himself.  “Out of physical necessity, I had to stop after a serious accident three years ago,” he explained to the press.  To “get better, for once and for all,” while keeping his eyes on the future. 

It makes sense that, this chef who incorporates land and nature in each of his creations, is a supporter of organic food and an advocate for ecology.  The proof can be seen at the “Cozna Vera,” the first organic fast-food restaurant in Annecy, a concept that will surely be imitated across Europe.  He also displays his commitment in his teaching, passing on his culinary knowledge to future generations.  He is also, surely, dreaming up new, innovative projects, always with the mountains in his heart and in his recipes.

Photos : Thomas Bianchin

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