Parisian Chef David Toutain: ‘That's My Life,’ Part 1

Contributor
“The chef cooking in the kitchen is speaking to the guest with his dish and conveying his thoughts”
David Toutain

David Toutain

Chef David Toutain.

This is the first installment in a three-part interview with chef David Toutain. You can find the second installment here and the third installment here.

The next rising star at David Toutain in Paris is at the service every Friday night between 8:00 and 8:30. That is when the barely five-year-old Aiden Toutain puts on his apron and clambers onto his little step stool to provide his valuable assistance to his father chef David Toutain. It is also quite probable to walk into the David Toutain restaurant before lunch service to find petite Thai Toutain, wife of David Toutain (and in-house photographer, among other things) crouching on the floor to take a picture of her husband's latest creation. Assisted by a staff member directing smoke from the handheld smoker, oblivious to everything else until the smiling David Toutain walked out of the kitchen stating, “That’s my life.”

It is certainly an interesting time in his life as his restaurant that opened its doors in December of 2013 was awarded its first Michelin star this year, making it  one of the most exciting and buzzed about restaurants to emerge on the Paris dining scene in recent years. Toutain, who has trained with celebrated chefs like Alain Passard at L'Arpege, Pierre Gagnaire, Marc Veyrat at Maison DuBois, and Bernard Pacaud at L'Ambroisie, was not done learning after these stints and took off for Mugaritz, Andoni Aduriz's acclaimed kitchen in Spain, followed by (now closed) Corton in New York. 

Toutain's time at Mugaritz was certainly well spent, since as he honed his culinary skills he met Thai, his future wife, a chef from San Francisco, in the Mugaritz kitchen. The delightful young couple now works together with David in the kitchen and Thai taking care of guests in the elegant, warm, minimalist dining room designed by her with ecru walls, custom walnut wood tables and honeyed wood panels. Thai is assisted by yet another Mugaritz alum, sommelier Linda and a young team with an attentive ear contributing to the dynamic.

Prior to opening his own restaurant at the tail end of 2013 the young Normandian chef brought his modern concept to L'Agape Substance in Paris where he gained multitudes of followers before departing in 2012 on an Asian adventure. Toutain returned to Paris to open his restaurant in the seventh arrondissement where in record time his original cuisine has mesmerized diners and critics alike as he paints the canvass of his menus with improbable combinations of textures, flavors and tastes. The convivial chef is not averse to popping into the dining room to chat with guests at the, unusually for Paris, widely spaced tables, or bring a course to the table himself.

This year the Diners Club Academy at Worlds 50 Best restaurants voted it as one of six restaurants to watch for in Europe. His book "The Cuisine of David Toutain", not merely a compilation of recipes relates the story behind the evolution of this young chef and his inimitable style of fine cuisine using fresh, quality, and seasonal produce.  Think wild garlic sponge, trout with miso, smoked eel with black sesame, and of course the cauliflower and white chocolate dessert if it is on the tasting menu that day. The attention to detail at this unique restaurant is evident not only in the carefully orchestrated progression of the tasting menus but even in the choice of serve ware and table accessories. Thai Toutain narrated the story behind the spectacular ceramics handmade for them by a Belgian ceramic artist whose creations they fell in love with at chef Sang Hoon Degeimbre's restaurant outside Brussels. The affable couple set off en famille to order their own unique plates, striking an instant friendship with the artist and ended up spending the night at her house!

Related Links
Parisian Chef David Toutain: ‘That's My Life,’ Part 3Parisian Chef David Toutain: ‘That's My Life,’ Part 2An Interview with Peruvian Chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz: Part 1An Interview with Peruvian Chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz: Part 2An Interview with Peruvian Chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz: Part 3