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Chefs on Vacation

STEPHANIE DUONG PARIS, FRANCE

Stephanie Duong co-owns Toronto pastry shop Roselle Desserts with Bruce Lee.

What draws you to Paris?

I love the Parisian spirit of joy for life tempered with a nonchalant attitude.

After you land and settle, where do you go first?

The original location of Pierre Hermé on rue Bonaparte. The Ispahan croissant (sprinkled with candied rose petals and filled with rose-flavoured paste and fruit compote) is iconic, delicious and possibly the best value viennoiserie in the world at 2.80 euros.

And for your first proper meal?

Our first meal in Paris is always a picnic. We head to our nearest boulangerie and buy a “baguette tradition,” and load up on cheese at the market. My favourite place to get cheese now is from the food hall of Galeries Lafayette, which has an amazing selection of perfectly ripened cheeses. We’ll usually get a nice bottle of Côtes-du-Rhône to wash it down with.

LE BARATIN

What do local chefs and cooks do best?

There is an amazing variety of young chefs who trained in fine-dining establishments and have gone on to open their own restaurants and mini-empires—for example, Iñaki Aizpitarte, Adeline Grattard, Bertrand Grébaut, Sven Chartier, Gregory Marchand, to name a few. The cooking styles are so eclectic and personal and give the Paris food scene so much character and richness. Each chef interprets the produce in their own way, and it makes dining there so much fun.

For a quick weekend—just two restaurant lunches and two dinners—where would you go?

Pierre Hermé for a dessert lunch: I’d get the Ispahan croissant (maybe two), an assortment of his macarons (white truffle and hazelnut, passion fruit and milk chocolate are my faves), the infiniment vanille tart. Clown Bar for innovative bistro cooking— it’s fun and casual and quirky. Le Baratin features soulful cooking by the queen of bistro food, Raquel Carena. Her sweetbread dish is one of the best offal dishes I’ve had in my life, a whole veal sweetbread seared and basted with butter, served on a bed of sautéed seasonal vegetables. The place has very interesting natural wines chosen by her husband. And L’Astrance— Pascal Barbot is one of the best chefs of his generation. He totally turned three-star dining on its head with a tiny, ingredient-focused, tasting-menu-only restaurant.

Morning coffee?

Brûlerie Saint Roch at 53 rue Saint Roch. It’s an old-school coffee shop, timeless and Parisian, friendly owner, standing room only. The price of an espresso has not changed in five years—no latte art here!

DU PAIN ET DES IDÉES

For afternoon drinks?

I’d buy a bottle of wine and sit by the canal Saint-Martin on a nice, sunny day.

Where do you like to go for a bike ride?

I rent a Vélib’ (the bike-share service) and cruise down the Bassin de la Villette along Quai de la Seine all the way down the canal Saint-Martin. It’s a ride I did when I lived in Paris that took me from my apartment to Du Pain et des Idées, the best bakery in Paris, maybe the world. There is a dedicated bike lane almost all the way, and you can watch old men playing pétanques along Bassin de la Villette and young Parisians picnicking along the canal.

Or for quiet contemplation?

I love the waterfall in Parc des ButtesChaumont, a place that is far off the beaten tourist path. I also love a small park on the tip of Île St-Louis called Square du VertGalant, which is quiet and peaceful yet a stone’s throw from the 1st arrondissement.

What does Paris have that you wish you could get at home?

An amazing variety of cheeses, perfectly ripened. I love aged comté with lots of crystals (ripened by Bernard Anthony is the best), Brillat Savarin with truffle, Roquefort Papillon, super-ripe Camembert à la louche. And “baguette tradition” for one euro.

What do you always buy, pack up and smuggle home?

Cheese, foie gras, charcuterie, duck confit— get the vacuum-sealed bags rather than cans as they weigh less and you can smuggle more of it. This is very self-incriminating.

GALERIES LAFAYETTE

PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY: (DUONG) BY ANTONIO LEE; (OTHERS) COURTESY OF STEPHANIE DUONG

Stephanie Duong & Bruce Lee
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