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Issue 91 - On a spirited Spice route

Whisky Magazine Issue 91
October 2010


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On a spirited Spice route

Martine Nouet meets the chef who brings spice to our lives

Spices should never be used as single, they should be blended”. As I am listening to Olivier Roellinger speaking in favour of blending, I immediately think of whisky and of the masterblenders who orchestrate their quest for harmony and complexity through a skillful measuring, blending whiskies which feature a whole array of aromatic profiles. In both domains, this relies on professionals with a flair, a knowhow and years of practice.

Just as one can't just suddenly become a master-blender, one can't become an expert in spice handling overnight.

Think of the number of dishes ruined by the extra pinch of pepper or by a specific spice (or several) blatantly overwhelming in a homemade ras el hanout or garam massala?

The famous Cancale chef obviously thought of the amateur cook when he designed his blends of spices in order to give “our classic cuisine a tempo and a relief it had lost”. The chef has this suggestive comparison: “The ingredients are the words of the sentence, and spices its punctuation”. They give the dish all its meaning.

It all started in 1982, some 30 years ago, when Olivier Roellinger opened his restaurant La Maison de Bricourt. He invented his first “powder”, the now iconic Retour des Indes. It was the encounter with a student who was researching La Compagnie des Indes towards the end of the 17th century that triggered off the chef's creations. He designed a blend of 14 spices as a tribute to La Compagnie des Indes. When its members brought ba...

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