There’s a saying in France that ‘on mange avec les yeux’ – literally ‘they eat with their eyes’. Nothing is more important in France than food (ok – perhaps wine then) but gourmets and gastronomes alike agree the first thing you do with a dish is see it. It needs to look as good as it tastes, and the eyes have it.
Now we are in autumn we thought it would be a good time to look back on just some of the visual culinary delights Chef-cum-culinary-Conjurer Jo Stones has produced, as if by magic, from her tiny galley between May and October.
Jo prides herself on choosing fresh local produce. This being Burgundy the markets reflect the turn of the seasons, so she has plenty to choose from. She also has the canal banks to forage along, and the gardens of the lock-keepers’ cottage often supplement the menu.
Mostly serving three meals a day (a couple of meals are taken in notable local restaurants) means that every week Jo creates around 15 feasts for Le Papillon’s 6 guests from breakfast through to dinner, not to forget nibbles and snacks in between. If there is a quiet week on Le Papillon she heads west a bit to the Loire to do the same on Nymphea in the Loire. Now we come to think about it she doesn’t get many days off during the summer!
What’s even more impressive, given the fact her raw materials are always changing with the season, is that Jo continually has to be creative in putting together an ever-changing menu.
Some things are staples – this wouldn’t be France if we didn’t offer our guests Snails and they come from the market ready prepared, and the bread is always fresh-baked in a local boulangerie. But Jo is also in charge of managing the cheese board and that means offering at least 20 different French cheeses over the course of a week.
Cooking and preparation aside she is also the perfect Maitre d’Hote, overseeing the dining room, service and drinks. Amazingly she even finds time to pilot the barge sometimes.
We think Le Papillon is one of Europe’s finest destination restaurants. Depending on where you are it might be a bit of an effort to get there – but it’s well worth the journey.