Monaco’s Michelin-starred restaurants are playing a leading role in showing that sustainability in the kitchen isn’t only necessary – it has the potential to be something of great beauty, writes Chrissie McClatchie.
Tuna bones aren’t an ingredient generally associated with fine dining. “They are bloody and have quite a bitter taste,” says chef Manon Fleury of Monaco restaurant Elsa. Yet sometimes, all that’s needed is a little bit of time – and the desire – to stop and reflect on how scraps destined for the bin can be transformed into new flavour experiences on the plate.
“We have created an entire dish around tuna, using the flesh but also the parts that are normally thrown away,” Fleury says. The bones are torrefied (cooked in an oxygen-free environment) and made into a jus. And the roe is dried out into bottarga. “It’s tricky, but our clients have understood all the work that has gone into it,” she continues.
Monaco restaurants commit to sustainable practices
Something new, green and inspiring hides inside the legendary Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel. Beyond the doors of the Art-Deco property – occupying a prime waterfront position at the eastern tip of Monaco – is Elsa. The exciting restaurant uses Mediterranean flavours and farm-to-table produce, with a focus on sustainability. Feted as the world’s first, fully organic Michelin-starred address, Elsa celebrated the arrival of Parisian chef Fleury in summer 2021. This addition further cemented the one-star establishment’s commitment to sustainable practices and ingredients, including wild fish.
Focus on zero waste at Monaco restaurants
Fleury has brought with her a zero-waste philosophy. Much of which was nurtured during her time at Dan Barber’s upstate New York kitchen, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. “We often throw something out because we don’t know what to do with it or we don’t try to use it because of the time involved,” she says. “Now, instead of making one dish from one product, I try to create two or three.”
In practice, this translates into a range of new ways of creating many kitchen staples. Think oils ground out of carcasses, stocks made from peelings and creams crafted from husks. Each is a subtle but significant touch on a menu with signature dishes inspired by the Franco-Italian surrounds. This includes king prawns from across the Italian border in Sanremo, served with raspberry and nasturtium jelly; vegetable tarte with herbs grown on terraces high above the principality; and bream cooked in fig leaves with steamed rice and sauce vierge.
Fleury represents a new generation of chefs driven by the desire to create imaginative yet responsible haute cuisine. However, much of her philosophy comes from the home cooking of her childhood. “I imagine my dishes with common sense. For example, in French cuisine we have always used carrot and onion scraps to make broth,” she says.
“Now we just need to bring this to gastronomy and show guests that zero waste is not just necessary, it can also be something of beauty.”
Green initiatives that stretch beyond the kitchen
For Fleury, the invitation to lead the kitchen at Elsa was an easy ‘yes’ – a natural meeting of minds. Like other Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) properties, the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel is certified Green Globe Gold Standard, the world’s premier sustainable tourism certification. Along with a reduction in water consumption and promotion of renewable energy, the resort has undertaken important environmental initiatives. One such example was the restoration of the beach earlier this year. Meanwhile, Pointe de la Vigie – the pine-scented tip of its promontory – is now a classified bird sanctuary.
Monaco is green and glam
Such actions tie into Monaco’s overall commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a firm statement to the world that ‘green is the new glam’.
Events like late 2021’s La Vita Monte- Carlo across the SBM’s resorts have seen the principality bounce back to life with a program of atmospheric candlelight dinners and fine wine encounters. The evenings have also showcased culinary talents such as Fleury and another new arrival from the French capital, chef Yannick Alléno.
Pavyllon Monte-Carlo, a restaurant by Yannick Alléno
Alléno, a double three-Michelin starred chef, is busy building upon a successful opening season at the Hôtel Hermitage, a stone’s throw from the city-state’s emblematic Casino Square. “For me, this is the place to be. Our terrace, and the view across Port Hercules to the palace, is fantastic,” he says.
He’s aware that he is blessed with an abundance of incredible produce grown on his doorstep. But he isn’t looking to recreate Alléno Paris or Le 1947 at the Cheval Blanc Courchevel – his two most decorated restaurants. Instead, Alléno’s ambition is for a relaxed offering that becomes the table of choice for Monégasques.
“It’s about gastronomy with fabulous products that speak for themselves,” he says. After some improvements this last winter Alléno says it is “the most beautiful restaurant in Monaco.”
The new key ingredient for Monaco Restaurants
While he may be stripping back some of the three-star trimmings, certain trademarks remain a constant. Most notably, his modern sauces, for which he is credited with bringing back to their rightful place in French cuisine. Then there is the dessert list, resolutely free from refined sugar. And, like Fleury, Alléno also understands the extent to which sustainability has become a key ingredient in his cooking.
“At this level, we don’t talk about it, we just do it,” he says. “Simply put, it’s our responsibility.”
Find out more at Visit Monaco