Benoît Witz, creating tasty, local cuisine in Provence
Born in Colmar, Alsace, Benoit Witz learned his trade from Paul Bocuse in Lyon and Gaston Lenôtre at Pré Catelan in Paris, before joining Alain Ducasse's brigade in Monaco in 1987. Since 2000, he has been welcoming guests in a spectacular setting, at l'Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle, where he serves up seasonal Provencal dishes inspired from the land and the sea.
What made you want to start your career in the kitchen?
I have loved the kitchen since I was very young, in my country home in Alsace. First, it was the place where my mother prepared delicious dishes and pastries with products from the farm, all with a feeling, an aura of wellbeing. Then, there was a fortuitous meeting, one between the master of my apprenticeship and Monsieur Paul Haeberlin, who had me begin my career with Monsieur Paul Bocuse at Mont d'Or, in Collonges. A succession of important people and various adventures have helped shape me into who I am today.
Where do you find inspiration?
It was, first and foremost, my experiences in the different maisons that have helped me evolve: the places themselves, the regions, the local markets, the artisans, and especially the clients, whom we listen to. The seasons and time are also important inspirational elements in cooking. How will we prepare this or that product? Should it be cooked at high heat or slowly, grilled or steamed, sliced thickly or thinly...
What role do the seasons play in your cuisine?
The seasons give us our products; it's then up to us to find the best way to prepare and present them before serving them to clients.
What emotions do you try to convey to your clients?
To find the true taste of each product through the cooking method and spices used. I propose a real cuisine, without artifice.
What products or specialties would you like to introduce to someone coming to France for the first time?
We invite them to come see the kitchen, to discover the space and atmosphere, and to work up an appetite with its smells and flavours. Then the dining room takes over to create an unforgettable adventure.
Tell us about your region.
All of France's regions are beautiful, rich and diverse, but I invite you to discover Provence, more specifically Green Provence, at the heart of the Coteaux Varois vineyards.