Benoît Witz is not unheard of in Monaco: he is actually one of the leading lights of gourmet cuisine in the Principality. This year, the chef – who until now has been at the helm of the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo (home to the Michelin-starred Le Vistamar and Le Limùn) – is heading to the Monte-Carlo Beach. A key focus there will be Elsa, the Michelin-starred organic restaurant where he’ll be inspiring a resolutely locavore approach. Here, the former commis chef for both Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse lets us in on his kitchen secrets and his ambitions for this new professional adventure.
What is your kitchen philosophy?
Benoît Witz: I am a gourmet, yes, but first and foremost I just love food! Back when my friends were all kicking a ball around, you’d find me trying out new recipes with my family instead. Those values naturally left an impression on me, as did the importance of healthy eating. Now as a chef, I try to inspire attention to detail, discipline, and a working environment where all my colleagues can both please our clients and enjoy themselves in the process.
What makes Monaco magic?
B.W: I came here for the first time in 1987. I was incredibly impressed by its beauty, the processions of beautiful cars, and most of all, the people strolling through the streets. Now I am incredibly proud to be able to work at the Monte-Carlo Beach, and to be part of the team that helps the place grow. I am also proud to share my experience and pass it on so that we may best meet our clientele’s expectations.
Was locally-sourced Mediterranean cuisine the natural choice for Elsa?
B.W: Dishes at Elsa are all inspired by the Mediterranean, and it’s important to me that my food tells a story, both about the ingredients I use and the people who grew them. The first step towards being able to do that has been to select our suppliers. Our partners include the Jardin des Antipodes in Menton, the Domaine d’Agerbol in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and a young team of farmers in the Roya Valley who are growing vegetables and producing honey at altitude. The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is full of wondrous, quality ingredients. So is Monaco and the surrounding area. Every time I’ve met a local producer I’ve learnt something new, and they help me to create new menus as the seasons change. Working with trusted local partners means we can offer authentic, healthy food that showcases local produce. As I always say, “Living Well, Looking Good”.
Can you whet our appetites with a peek at your new menu?
B.W: One thing you’ll find is a take on a bagna cauda, with a selection of raw and cooked vegetables on thinly sliced bread. Shellfish, squid, tiger prawns in cuttlefish ink and more will also make an appearance...
3 things you need to know about Benoît Witz :
1 - He likes...that people can share his dishes. It adds to the pleasure of eating and makes meals more convivial.
2 - He loves...autumnal flavours, which he never tires of reinventing.
3 - His favourite thing...is the only one a chef needs: a knife, to reshape and then cook produce with the greatest respect.