French chef + handy husband = Amazing Kitchen

We dined the other night at the home of Hervé and Chantal, a retired couple who live in Besançon, France. Chantal is a wonderful cook, and her husband likes to build beautiful things. Their kitchen was typical 1980s ugly, of a style common in the French countryside – dark, inefficient and seriously lacking in electrical outlets.

Before: French kitchenHervé was at loose ends after retiring and decided to build Chantal a dream kitchen, which he designed and crafted himself. It’s a galley kitchen (two parallel sides), with the sink counter (not shown) looking out the window to the garden. The drawers under the counters are unusually deep because they run all the way under the appliance garage. The top cabinet fronts are frosted glass which lift, slide or pull out on heavy duty German mechanisms.


Note the two plugs at the edge of the appliance garage. As if there weren’t enough inside… the French LOVE their cooking machinery; there are ten additional outlets across the back of the appliance garage. Below you only see the left half.


Below, the Thermomix (a Vitamix on steroids and the queen of many French kitchens) sits for the moment on the cooktop. Behind it, those three pipes are Hervé’s invention to suck steam and smoke out of the kitchen. They unscrew for easy washing.


The garbage can is embedded in the sink counter.


Heavy duty German hinges and drawer sliders (you can’t find this stuff at Ikea…):

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The meal we had was typical French dinner party cuisine, and it took hours. Bread is on the table from l’entrée through le fromage. Salad usually served after the main dish, but here it was the entrée:

  • L’apertif – served in the living room: champagne (always champagne), petite gougères (totally divine cheese puffs), cherry tomatoes from the garden w salt to dip
  • L’entrée (first course): salad of finely grated garden veggies – different colored carrots and radishes w. sauce vinaigrette
  • Le plat principal: Blanquette de veau (veal stew with mushrooms)
  • Le fromage: a selection of five amazing cheeses
  • Le dessert: Oeufs à la neige (floating islands – egg white meringues cooked in milk atop a crème anglaise sauce). PLUS madeleines (the adoration of which made Marcel Proust famous) and curled almond crisps.
  • Le cafe: Espresso–intense, in tiny cups.

Blarggh I was stuffed! … but so delicious!

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