Food

French food with Marc Delorme

Chef Marc Delorme set up Kochi’s first French restaurant 16 years ago. His love affair with Kerala includes a tryst with Kathakali and French culinary classes

Marc Delorme fires instructions in impeccable Malayalam to the kitchen staff at Solo, the city’s only French restaurant.

The Frenchman’s accented Malayalam is sonorous and he speaks with charming ease. A curious query on his fluency brings forth a witty Pinne (Then What), before he breaks into laughter.

“It is the love of people that has kept me here for 26 years. I have just applied for an Indian citizenship,” says Marc, who set up Casa Maria, in Jew Town, 16 years ago. The first-floor restaurant with bright indigo walls was a head turner and the menu attracted curious diners.

Much water has flown since. Marc opened La Dame Rouge, a home stay in Ayampally in Vypin 11 years ago, and began conducting classes for women and chefs last year. “I teach them basic French cooking — sauces, pasta, pastry. Here they learn to make salads, cook fish, beef...” he says.

French food with Marc Delorme

Marc’s interest in cooking began by assisting his mother in Lyonnaise, “the capital of French gastronomy.” His mother, he says, never repeated the same dish in a month, rustling up something new every time she bought provisions from the market. His family was large and included four Vietnamese adopted siblings. “Hence the food prepared at home was global.”

Cooking was not Marc’s first choice of profession; he studied jewellery design in Paris first. At 33, he veered to theatre, doing comic roles. This was followed by a desire to learn Kathakali and he took the plunge.

“That’s how I came to India first. I trained for three years at Vijnana Kala Vedi, in Aranmula.” The experience enriched him, he says, giving him a new definition of body language. “It was a plus for me.”

Marc says his life has been full of surprises. Just as he was settling into theatre, learning Kathakali, came an opportunity to open a French restaurant. He trained chefs, set up the menu and decorated the space in ways that were fresh and new to Kochi. It got him instant attention. Alongside he also opened two suites for visitors coming to Kerala, possibly being a pioneer in home stay tourism that bloomed a decade later.

And while all this happened, his love for the people and the land was growing. He began hunting for a place for himself. An old Tharavadu in Vypin drew him. “For two years, I wooed the owner to lease his home and finally he relented.” Marc set up a four-bedroom Kerala-style home stay, which his large family and extended family from France keep visiting. One of the curiosities of his home is retaining the traditional wood-fired kitchen. He teaches women and chef how to cook both French and Indo-French dishes on these stoves.

Marco’s idea of fusion is a French-style chicken roll stuffed with spinach-mushroom and bordered with Kerala spicy shrimps or Calamari stuffed with couscous and chilli lamb . His latest foray into food is as consultant to French restaurants. He is also writing a book — his selection of the best breakfast-and-dinner places in Kerala, based on three essential factors — quality, beauty of place and price.

Of his life in Kerala, he says, “I love my village, Vypin, and the people love me. My life here is a gift of God.”

Fine dining At Solo
  • “After a survey of the eating places and options around for travellers in Fort Kochi, we realised that there was no place serving authentic French food, hence we set up Solo,” says Anant Debesh who founded the eight-room home stay with a restaurant along with his Malayali partner Krishna Chandralal.
  • Solo at Bishop’s Garden in Pattalam, Fort Kochi, began functioning in December 2019. Chef Sunesh Subrahmanian heads the kitchen and comes with a long experience of working with continental cuisine in Dubai and on a cruise liner.
  • He trained with Marc and says, “Marc follows country style cooking that is more about flavours and taste. I worked in his kitchen, which is all about wood fired cooking . There’s no microwave or non-stick pans,” says Sunesh adding that baking and confectionery are done in modern ovens. A bread or croissant done well is Marc’s test for good basic French food.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:05:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/french-food-with-marc-delorme-in-kochi/article30769166.ece

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