Epic Epie, Still Dishing It Up
Famed French Chef Gilles Epie reminisces reveals his secret to a great meal, and professes his dream.
By Slavica Monczka
Gilles Epie. God I love saying his name. Do you know what I like even more about Gilles Epie? Photos of him. This Frenchman’s charm and charisma is so bare that he doesn’t even know he’s got “it.” But he’s not most commonly known for his “it” factor, non. Gilles Epie is a world renown, award winning French chef and restaurateur, for the few of you left out there that still might not be familiar with him. And as if he were not blessed enough as it is, he can also check “marry hot American super-model” off his list of things to accomplish in life as well.
Photo by Robert Feronne. Note to self, print photo to view daily.
Still to this day carrying the title of the youngest chef to ever receive the Michelin Star at age 22, the list goes on and on with many successes in and out of the kitchen. We became more familiar with Epie as head chef at L.A.’s L’Orangerie, where after only a year in the states, and hardly a lick of English, he managed to be voted “Best Chef in America” in 1996. He single handedly took that establishment from a 3 star to a 5 star restaurant within six months. That “Best Chef” title gave him quite a busy ten years in the US, cooking for presidents here and kings there. He went on to own and operate Chez Gilles in Beverly Hills as well other partnerships. My favorite names to mention that have been his guests are Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Princess Di, and Slash just to name a few. Though one name even Gilles would say was his favorite patron, is now wife Elizabeth Nottoli. Super model/actress, turned Mrs. Epie, turned restaurateur herself beside Gilles in, where else, Paris France at Citrus Etoile. Certainly still living the dream, I’d say. Except, now this insanely sexy couple make magic together.
Gilles and Elizabeth Epie. Note to self, print photo to view daily, but hide from husband.
Referred to as a culinary contortionist by the NY Times, Gilles Epie missed the competition of the international chef scene, which was part of what drove him back to Paris seven years ago to start something new. Celebrating six successful years, this duo continues to amuse our bouche at Citrus Etoile. The elegant interior and its stunning Hermes-ish orange add to the phenomenal experience at Citrus Etoile. Still catering to international clientele, Gilles explains that the secret to a great dish is always using fresh ingredients. A daily trip to a Parisian market ensures this, where you will find all the seasonal fruits, vegetables, and meats “du jour” from rabbits to a leg of this or a rack of that. Unlike in the states, many of the whole meat selections still have the heads on because it shows how fresh it really is, Gilles explains. “French people, they don’t buy the pigeon if there is no head on it.” For a fresh fish, look at the eyes, Gilles suggests. Except when it comes to Monk fish, which is displayed at the market without a head. “The head on a Monk fish is really ugly. No one wants to buy a really ugly fish anyway,” he says with a most serious tone, because apparently only the pretty fish get sold with the heads on.
Grilled Tuna with Cashew Nuts, Citrus Etoile
My hour-long conversation with Gilles recently went on as if talking to Jacque Clouseau himself. Take it as you may, I mean that as a compliment because I love the French accent so much so, that I often request my husband come to bed as the Pink Panther. This may be why I dragged on our conversation for so long (sorry Gilles).
Reminiscing, Gilles recalls the New Year’s Eve party at NY’s Studio 54 for the Millennium, a party his company catered. There were over 200 bottles of private-label French champagne flown in for the event “and 250 kilos of Beluga Caviar,” Gilles describes. Needless to say, the party went down in history, one of many Epie was privy to be a part of. It would be probably appropriate to mention here that Epie had catered Frank Sinatra’s 80th birthday party as well.
Endearingly referred to as “Frenchy” by his American fan, Epie says he “loves America.”
Our discussion went from when he fist arrived to the states without much of a plan, to questions of if he has ever been to a, dare I say it, McDonalds? “Oh yes, many times in the states I would take my son. Their fries are better in the states than in France.” I wonder if this has something to do with why Gilles says his dream is to come back to America someday (ha ha)? “I want to come back, open another restaurant, and live near the ocean.” Your dream is our dream, as we selfishly want you back for more of your gourmet delights. It would make it easier for us to frequent your restaurant if you were in the states rather than Paris. Not nicer, but definitely easier.
Gilles Epie at famed Citrus Etoile, Photo by Cecile Debise.
Legendary, brilliant, and super cool, Chef Gilles Epie will continue to satisfy our need for exceptional dining, without a doubt. Until then, see you in Paris!
For more on Gilles and Elizabeth Epie and Citrus Etoile, go to citrusetoile.com/
A bientot mes amies!
xx - Slavica