"Oh, it's pitiful to see that...digging up carrots of this size, it's really because it's for you!" Bent over his carrot bed, at Sainte-Radegonde below the village of Pont l’Abbé d’Arnoult, Pierre Faiyre is preparing the order for Johann Suire who has come to visit him. Seventy mini carrots, a few mini turnips, new onions, and peas. "Pierre is moaning as, around here, they only eat good sized carrots, not mini ones. He produces these only for me." The complicity between the chef and his producer is genuine.
And Johann does not hold back moreover from biting into a few vegetables, straight from the field, like these green peas that he tosses into his mouth like peanuts. "The important thing, as in all my cooking, is the season, nature. Vegetables are put on the table at the right time, not too early and not too late!" This is how this young chef who loves nature works...in harmony with his environment, peacefully to the rhythm of the seasons of his area.
With his interest in encounters and produce, Johann Suire is a chip off the old block. Michel, his father of course. A colossus of cooking in the Charente region, former holder of a Michelin star at l’Eclair in Bourcefranc, having worked alongside Pic the grandfather, Point, Brazier…it was actually he who opened Les Jardins du Lac in 1993 after getting a star in his former restaurant. He is a lover of cooking who still drags his large white-haired body into battle in the kitchen...with a "look, have a taste of this, have a smell of that...it's good, eh?" at each step. With kindness to spare and great knowledge of the produce of the region.
Johann Suire walks in his father's footsteps, self-taught to a great extent "without training for years in this or that kitchen, but through work placements with Ducasse, LeNôtre, Cousseau, Cuizel," and reading. He took over the kitchens of Les Jardins du Lac in 2011. Now in charge, Johann has introduced new techniques - sous-vide cooking, low temperature cooking, etc. - but remaining very close to the produce. "I don't imagine the cooking of tomorrow as cubes and powders. No, we have to keep the taste and shape of the product. We need to think pleasure, without forgetting sauces."
This young 27-year-old overflows with pleasure and enthusiasm as he starts shopping this Tuesday morning in the covered market at Rochefort. Line-caught fish landed at la Cotinière, the port on the Ile d’Oléron, organic apples, local honey, meat from selected breeds, etc. The best produce from the Saintonge Romane and the Rochefort area are now brought together in the kitchen. The last touches are picked a stone's throw away, in the little herb garden placed a stone's throw away from the kitchens. "I pick my borage flowers there, my tarragon for the lobster spring roll, my mint - and even Szechuan pepper." The strawberry beds meanwhile are a bit higher up.
Before starting the service, the Suire family as a whole sits down for a snack. In particular there is Johann, his girlfriend La Retha originally from South Africa, Michel and his wife Sabine, all together in this restaurant bathed in light. All united in sharing, smiles, simplicity... A state of mind, a philosophy of welcome that we find again when they start serving the first customers. La Retha knows Johann's cooking perfectly and enjoys sharing it enthusiastically. Charmed by the serenity of the place and the lake which spreads out beyond their table, the guests let themselves be delightfully spoiled. "That's really what people are looking for here, a family spirit...yes, that's my idea of what makes a Relais du Silence," interjects Johann, busy in the kitchen.
And that is life in Les Jardins du Lac. Peaceful, following the rhythms of nature, the lapping of the lake, the walks by the duck family with its three ducklings, seasonal dishes...and the infectious laugh of the pretty La Retha.
Discover our charming hotel Les Jardins du Lac
What if you were...Johann Suire
- What if you were a dish?
- A strawberry tart, as everyone likes strawberries. For me it's a dish that's synonymous with sharing, family, friends.
- What if you were one of your suppliers?
- A sea fisherman, a troller even, catching sea bass, sea bream, etc.
- What if you were a gourmet memory of your childhood?
- Oh, I'd be my mother's chocolate cake, served still warm when I got back from school...
- What if you were a cuisine of the future?
- I'd like a truthful cuisine, clean dishes, recognisable products, etc. No foams or powders.
- What if you were a style of cuisine of today?
- A cuisine to eat!
- What if you were a cooking tip?
- I'd start cooking crustaceans in boiling water, never in cold water.
- What if you were a product?
- I'd be a sea bass, for me the best fish.
- What if you were a city, a region or a country?
- The Landes, because they eat well there.
- What if you were another chef?
- Jean-Jacques Cousseau at Magescq.
- What if you were a character?
- Popeye, because he eats lots of vegetables (laughs)!
- What if you were an art?
- Sculpture, we try to get close to it when we put a plate together.
- What if you were a customer, what would you expect from your restaurant?
- To have a good time, to be delighted with the plate, the setting, the quality of the products.