There you are, he is no longer looking at you. His sense of smell on alert, eyes like radar, sweeping over the top of the fir plantation carefully like a metronome, Franck Quinton does not seem to be with us. It is as if he has been transported to another world. He speaks quietly, walks gently but surely. He takes his time to imbibe the woodland energy, permeating himself with the forest. Then, suddenly, the chef disappears a bit further on into the bracken. Armed with his knife, he has just dived on his prey! We find him a few seconds later, on all fours, pulling the grass gently aside to uncover a magnificent mushroom, but one so discreet that it thought itself impregnable, sheltered from animal eyes and lusts. But the chef of Le Manoir du Lys is at home here. He is one with the Andaine forest that covers more than 4,000 hectares from Domfront to Bagnoles in the Orne department. "When you find a mushroom, you have to prepare it quickly and carefully, before putting it in your basket. And above all, you have to hide the peelings so as not to reveal its location." Picking will have taken an hour, between two services. It is a moment of relaxation for the chef, who is accompanied this afternoon by his sister Stéphanie. "Yesterday, I was here with my son Pierre. He won't get over what we're bringing back!" At the Quintons', as we quickly realise, cooking and, more generally, welcome are a family story. A story of smiles and simplicity also.
The story takes place then in the heart of the Orne department, in a Relais du Silence called Manoir du Lys, "set up by my parents in 1975." His parents are now retired but often there. Passion…"My father was a pork butcher. And to begin with, by buying the Manoir, he wanted to develop his catering business by welcoming groups." The Manoir evolved with the times. It became a hotel then a gastronomic restaurant. It was even awarded a Michelin star when Franck took over the kitchens. "I arrived in the 90s and received a star in 1998." Trained in Normandy, he rubbed shoulders with the great and the good in Paris (Lutaecia, Sofitel Bourbon, etc.) before returning to the fold. Since then, Franck has worked with his wife, Laure, his sister and the sommelier Yvon Lebailly, his brother-in-law. "We work together on the menu to offer combinations of dishes and wines" which are used as benchmarks today in the world of gastronomy
"The business would not be what it is without mushrooms. Indeed it all began with some pharmacist friends who would come and sort through the baskets at the restaurant with my father. The idea grew until it became a vital part today," with, as a highlight, mushroom weekends organised by Franck for his customers. A forest walk, time in the kitchen, a tasting, and an explosion of woodland flavours in the mouth. And today Franck is willing to admit it, "Mushrooms have determined by my style of cooking. They are a benchmark when I think about cooking methods, accompaniments, etc." A cuisine full of instantaneity, spontaneity and simplicity. A cuisine marked by ceps, black trumpets, girolles, sparassis, field mushrooms, ink caps or even aromatic clitocybes "which gives an aniseed taste to custard."
Franck Quinton's cooking has evolved in contact with this exceptional product. "Just 7 or 8 years ago, I would take the ceps and add olive oil and parsley vinaigrette." Today, mushroom dishes are the very soul of the Manoir, its personality. "They evolve with their time. Indeed, the further I move forward, the more I simplify," says the chef examining a cep carefully. A few shavings set off with a stylish olive oil, a grating of pepper, some fine salt... "It's delicious!" he exclaims. Whether it is a quick tasting or a carefully designed dish, the chef always enjoys biting into mushrooms. Like the "great back-from-picking dish. That's really instantaneous." A firework with sautéed girolles with rosemary, apricots and hazelnuts. Chanterelles, cooked in foie gras cream and Parmesan, then take on another dimension when the trumpets establish their reputation once enhanced with Iberian ham and spring onions.
As you have understood, Franck Quinton's cooking is eminently based on local produce, and was so well before it became fashionable. "The mushrooms aside, I have always bought my pigeons twenty kilometres from here, I have my local market gardeners, Normandy meat, lambs from salt meadows grazing iodised grass from the Hâvre de Heugueville…" He has had this type of habits for..."say, twenty-five to thirty years!" And effectively, we find this salt meadow lamb on the menu, enlivened with ceps and chanterelles. "My cooking is made from seasonal combinations as, contrary to what you might think, mushrooms are not only found in the autumn."
Good news: we can come and enjoy the peace and the love of food of this manor in all seasons!
Discover our charming hotel Le Manoir du Lys
What if you were...Franck Quinton
- What if you were a dish?
- A whole piece of fish or meat to share
- What if you were a producer?
- Gérard Legruel for his tomatoes and ancient vegetables
- What if you were a gourmet memory of your childhood?
- Chestnuts smoked in the fireplace
- What if you were a cuisine of the future?
- Produce - Raise - Cook - Serve healthily
- What if you were a cooking tip?
- Why a tip? More a craftsman's technique like tripe kebabs from la Ferté-Macé
- What if you were a product?
- A mushroom
- What if you were a region, a country or a city?
- The Cotentin because of its wild state
- What if you were another chef?
- Michel Bras or Régis Marcon
- What if you were a character (real or fictitious)?
- What if you were an art?
- Abstract art or a minor art like cooking with a bit of humility could do some good
- What if you were a customer, what would you expect from your restaurant?