Photo Maurizio Camagna
7, avenue de Gramont
Jacques Decoret is a village cosmopolitan, a forty year-old in line with his time but with an incessantly unsynchronised gait. If he were a note, he’d be a beat ahead of his programmed rhythmic pace, imperceptibly offbeat – standing alongside the desired effect. But this is what we like about him, this controlled lack of reason.
Everyone’s told him: if he’d gone to Paris instead of returning to the region where he was born, by now he’d be at least as famous as his friend Pascal Barbot, «my brother», says Jacques, an incurable sentimentalist. But it is in the little spa citadel of Vichy that he set up shop, just a stone’s throw from the railway station, between a pizzeria and a sex shop, the legendary Kamasutra. Undoubtedly he deserves a prize for his constancy: surviving in a place so impermeable to the Gagnaire-style genius of the tormented artist is success in its own right. He uses his brains, reflecting on past experiences and thinking about what he has at his disposal: «with a kitchen not much bigger than a store cupboard you have to be creative».
It is here that is feverishly determinist dishes, snatched from the reification of the context, originate: like fish oublié for half a day in a corner next to the oven, homeopathically cooked at 40°C, «at ambient temperature». Here are his ruminations, his tests as an amateur alchemist, his Scabin-style sensorial equations (replace oysters at dinner with borage and the effects is almost the same) and his spectacular tours de force. Because if his Mullet with dandelion salad with pine nuts and horse radish sauce is a head-on attack, other evergreen classics – such as Snail croquette with baby squid – remind even the most absent-minded that the distinguished Monsieur Decoret, before posing as the heir to New Cuisine, gained his degree working all night long in the main hall of the Maîtres Ouvriers de France.
We all cultivate the contradictions we carry with us. He would give his all. Revealing even the mystery of a dish. And a didactic, a petulant (future Relais & Châteaux) that would take clients by the hand, explaining what goes on behind the scenes, the doubts, the ascending meaning of his creations. He might be considered playful, even post-modernist (as though two piece of straw, three syringes and the odd touch of gelatine would be enough to make not only the habit but also the monk) but, between rationality, expressionism and crisis of Kultur, we see him as more than a nostalgic modernist of days gone by. This said, every time we sit at a table at Jacquot, like the seraphim of the Angelus Novus by Walter Benjamin, we take an apprehensive peek at History as it is made behind us.
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