The high-flying cuisine of Arnaud Donckele, creative chef and poet with six stars

In 2021, the Cheval Blanc collection unveiled its hotel within the historic building of the former Samaritaine. Placed under the sign of the French art of living, animated by a daring and contemporary spirit, its 72 keys (26 rooms and 46 suites), its places of life, catering and well-being have been imagined by the architects Édouard François and Peter Marino.

Chef Arnaud Donckele orchestrates the gourmet restaurant Plénitude there, while Maxime Frédéric composes the beautiful pastry there.

Maxime Frédéric and Arnaud Donckele are in the kitchens of the Plénitude restaurant. | Laurent Dupont

In 2022, the Michelin guide awarded chef Arnaud Donckele three stars for his cuisine at the restaurant Plénitude du Cheval Blanc Paris. This distinction is in addition to the three stars of La vague d’Or, his restaurant in Saint-Tropez, received in 2013.

“I would like to warmly congratulate Arnaud Donckele who achieved the feat of winning these three macarons during the first year of opening of the Plénitude restaurant within the Cheval Blanc Paris. He perfectly embodies the values ​​that make the success of our group year after year: perpetual creative audacity and a quest for excellence at all times.responded Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO of the LVMH group, quoted by La Tribune de l’hôtellerie, after the announcement of this award.

An unforgettable culinary experience

At 1er floor of the hotel, Plénitude offers 26 seats facing the Seine, in an intimate setting. This is where chef saucier-perfumer Arnaud Donckele brilliantly crafts his coulis, fumets, consommés and other juices. Sauces are the backbone of his cuisine.

The dining room of the Plénitude restaurant offers 26 seats facing the Seine. | Vincent Leroux

His universe is built through meetings with his producers, his teams bring his vision of cooking to perfection: he is an alchemist genius who creates emotion and poetry thanks to dishes that are always unique.

In the beginning, there is the sauce again and again. Arnaud Donckele’s nose pays homage to the four seasons. The “absolutes”, as they were baptized by their creator, bloom like bouquets: a hundred timeless fragrances are revealed in a grimoire looking like an alphabet book, with up to twelve ingredients. The dining experience is unforgettable.

At the Plénitude restaurant, pigeon and Moorish juice. | Richard Haughton

Sauces like fragrances

This passion for cooking does not come from nowhere: from his childhood, Arnaud Donckele is immersed in the culinary universe. His father, Philippe Donckele, a butcher and caterer with a passion for cooking and hunting, collected the recipe books of the greatest chefs (Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé, Alain Chapel, Jacques Maximin, the Troisgros brothers); his paternal grandparents, farmers, gave him a taste for the land and contact with producers.

It’s in Goumard-Prunier, restaurant of the Ier Parisian arrondissement, that he made his debut alongside chef Georges Landriot, before abandoning his apprenticeship to officiate at the restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie (Landes), where he was trained by Olivier Brulard, second to Michel Guérard. Chef saucier at the age of 21, he was then recruited by Alain Ducasse and settled for a time at the Louis XV, in Monaco. It was finally in 2004, at the age of 27, that he became the chef of the starred restaurant La Vague d’Or, in Saint-Tropez (Var), taking over from his former mentor Olivier Brulard.

Since then, the distinctions have continued to rain down on the young chef. In 2010, the cuisine of La Vague d’or was awarded a second star in the Michelin guide, before winning a third in 2013, making Arnaud Donckele one of the youngest chefs in the world to receive this distinction. . Gault et Millau awarded him five toques and a score of 19/20 in 2016, then 19.5/20 in 2017. A year later, Arnaud Donckele was even elected “best chef in the world” by his peers during of the Chefs World Summit in Monaco, before being crowned “chef of the year” by Gault et Millau in 2020. A fine list of achievements for those who will become chef de la Plénitude in 2021.

His cooking is a universe that “reveals itself and expresses itself in a desire to search for emotions”through dishes that stray from recipes “to bring us closer to perfumes by drawing inspiration from the vines, the land or quite simply the waters, with the respect and passion for work that flow from it”he explains. “Our cuisine, or rather our sauces, become the reflection of our scores and our most singular expressions. We work with humility trying to create symphonies that nature helps us build. All these values ​​have as their sole outcome the product in its quintessence, sublimated by sauces like fragrances.”

On the menu:

The preludes

  • The vegetable partition for the coulis “Jade”.
    Composition of the “Jade” sauce: maceration of carrot, kohlrabi, fennel, Thai mango, lime, soy sauce, mint, coriander, chlorophyll of pepper herbs, olive oil infused with lemon and verbena, maceron berry .
  • Pheasant hen, end of winter vegetable garden, farfalle, for soup “wild feather”.
    The “wild feather” sauce: roasted pheasant hen, peridium water, burnt fennel, savory, vermouth, cognac, bay leaf, juniper, gratin stuffing, gin, shallot, soy sauce, cherry wood, roasted spelled, tailed pepper.
  • Langoustine, artichoke, Buddha’s hand, for the vinaigrette “carnelian”.
    Carnelian sauce: langoustine broth infused with citrus basil, coral liaison, cucumber water, lemon maceration, citron syrup, verbena oil, white balsamic vinegar, yuzu juice, bergamot olive oil, long pepper .
  • Sardine, fennel, marigold, for the “Eden” velvet.
    The “Eden” sauce: grilled sardine, escabeche stock, Lambrusco vinegar, bonito vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil infused with Mexican tarragon, egg yolk, Callas mustard, fennel brunoise, maniguette pepper.

Fresh and saline waters

  • Trout, white asparagus, tender primeur, for the “harpsichord” eating sauce.
  • Red mullet, bakery, sea urchin, for the rock stock “bravado”.

Red mullet and bravado broth. | Richard Haughton

  • Sole, haliotis, caviar, for the “iodine ode” broth.
  • Scarlet gammon, cabbage, bergamot, for the “dream of the vine” velouté.

The “one-eyed” sabayon for red mullet. | Richard Haughton

Grasslands and country lands

  • Pigeon, giblets, herbette, for the “delicacy” juice.
  • The veal, morels, wild garlic, for the “misguided” fricassee.
  • Lamb, paschal vegetable, marjoram, for the “first step” jus.

Sweet and sweet fragrances

  • Satin composition: six citrus fruits, five sweet and peppery herbs, lactic cream.

The satiny composition with six citrus fruits. | Richard Haughton

  • Emotional Normandy: apple, cinnamon, pommeau.
  • Cabosse flowers: three harmonious blends around Cassey beans.
    “Ultimate” sauce: for different varieties of vanilla.
    “Monochrome” sauce: for chocolate only.
    “Arabic Coffee” sauce: for the combination of coffee and green cardamom.

“Fuguons ensemble” menus in four acts (three savory dishes and one sweet dish) at 340 euros, and with the cheese cellar at 365 euros, “Symphony” menu in six acts at 415 euros.

1er pike service. | Richard Haughton

Cheval Blanc Paris: La Samaritaine, 8, quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris. Tel.: 01 79 35 50 11. The Plénitude restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and only open in the evening.

The Golden Wave, at Cheval Blanc in Saint-Tropez: Bouillabaisse beach, 83990 Saint-Tropez. Tel.: 04 94 55 91 00. Menus from 330 euros to 395 euros. 2022 season from May 12 to October 9. Open every evening except Wednesday.

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