by Marina Orhei
MENTON. It was the occasion for the Italo-Argentinian star chef to serve the community when the pandemic forced his restaurant doors to close. From his Mirazur’s kitchen 3-star Michelin Guide Mauro Colagreco cooked for hospital using his exceptional culinary skills to fight the virus.
He is the only Argentinean chef who has been awarded three Michelin stars, the highest distinction for international cuisine. A native of La Plata, Colagreco was trained by renowned Argentine chefs Beatriz Chomnalez and Carlos Alberto “Gato” at the Gato Dumas hotel school in Buenos Aires, and he also worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the city, including Catalinas, Rey Castro, Mariani and Azul Profundo. In 2001, this young chef, straight out of hotel school, set off for the world’s leading gastronomic destination. Mauro Colagreco headed to France and trained initially with Bernard Loiseau, where he remained as demi-chef de partie until the latter’s death in 2003. He then worked in Paris and held the posts of sous-chef de cuisine to Alain Passard at L’Arpège, demi-chef de partie to Alain Ducasse at Hôtel Plaza Athénée, and then spent a year at Le Grand Véfour. In France he revealed himself as a splendid up-and-coming chef and, as time went by, his name began to stand out. Great new restaurants started to bear his signature. In addition to Mirazur, for example, he opened Grand Coeur in Paris, and L’Estivale by Mauro Colagreco at Nice Airport, Côte d’Azur.
Finally, for him, the important and magical year was 2006, when he settled in Côte d’Azur as owner-chef of Mirazur. In the paradisiac Menton Cape he had found the perfect place to exercise his talents in a majestic 1930s building with mountains as a backdrop and a superb terraced garden, with fabulous views over Menton and the Mediterranean. In the kitchens, a team started to busy prepare the dishes dreamt up by this young Chef who draws his inspiration as much from the rare vegetables and baby salad leaves from the Mirazur’s gardens as he does from his Italo-Argentinian roots. Barely 6 months after it opened, he was awarded the ‘Revelation of the Year’ award by the Gault Millau guide, a brand-new category to recognise his achievements. Less than a year later, he won his first Michelin star. In 2009, Mirazur officially entered the ranks of the best restaurants in the world, listed in the S. Pellegrino list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. That same year, Mauro Colagreco was also awarded ‘Chef of the Year’ by the prestigious Gault & Millau restaurant guide – the first non-French chef ever to have received the title.
In 2010, the Mirazur was also awarded 4 toques by Gault & Millau and, in February 2012, Mauro Colagreco won his second Michelin star and was placed in 4th position in the S. Pellegrino list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and he was appointed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and became Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux. In short and ‘a fact that the Mirazur is considered to be one of the best in the world, but when in March 2020 it was forced to close its doors temporarily due to the Covid-19 lockdown, Colagreco found a way to use his culinary skills to serve the community. During normal times, the restaurant does great business: so exclusive that its menu is a surprise every day, within days of the reopening last June Mirazur had already filled up all its reservations for the rest of the year!
It’s not a coincidence that it is ranked number 1 in the 2019 edition of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants… Colagreco’s quinoa risotto, woodland mushrooms and parmesan cream, and catch of the day with celeriac and a smoked sauce are an invitation to the culinary experiences to come. Eating there, with drinks included, can cost from 350 to 400 euros. But in March 2020, Mirazur had to close its doors due to the coronavirus lockdown. Well, instead of standing idly by, the chef decided to use this time to aid in the fight against the virus. Starting on April 2 there was not a moment of rest for Mirazur’s staff for Colagreco with part of his Team moved its headquarters to nearby La Palmosa Hospital to cook for the health care.
Twice a week for two months, the cooks prepared meals to nourish and honor those who were facing the pandemic on the front lines. They gave these hospital meals the same elegance and combination of flavors as their dishes at Mirazur. One Thursday, for example, as an appetizer they served cabbage salad with turnips, red radishes, salmon, coriander and lemon. As a main course, they prepared focaccia with herb mayonnaise, ham, Emmental cheese, eggs, tomatoes and salad; and lemon cheesecake for dessert. Everything was made with products from the restaurant’s garden, from which its menu is usually nourished, and donations from local suppliers. At the Mirazur, biodiversity is given pride of place in the gardens and orchards. More than 100 species live side by side, including 40 varieties of tomato. Fresh products that the team gather each morning, to the delight of their guests.
Despite already having reached the highest stratosphere of professional chefs, Colagreco’s work for good causes shows that, like the produce he grows, his roots are firmly in the ground. Colagreco recently told the audience of a teleconference, “We’ve cooked in Mirazur for the hospital in Menton and for homeless people. We have a commitment and a responsibility because our restaurant is a reference point on the vanguard, but we also have to be an example of values.”
And in fact, last but not least “Origins” – “Projecto Origines” is the name of a project set up in partnership with two other Latin American chefs, Virgilio Martinez and Jorge Vallejo, to protect the cultural heritage of small Latin communities: their culinary habits, techniques used, ancestral ingredients that typify the regional food.
Their aim is to preserve their knowledge and culture, as well as to support local biodiversity, threatened by industrial farming methods.
It’s also possible to eat from a Colagreco menu in Argentina, and at a much lower price. The chef opened three hamburger restaurants in his home country, serving dishes costing 400 Argentine pesos, or 5 dollars.
The restaurant “Mirazur” address is 30 Avenue Aristide Briand 06500 Menton ([FR] – France) Info and booking Tel.: 33 (0)4 92 41 86 86 Fax: 33 (0)4 92 41 86 87