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“I want my new restaurant to have a thick, French accent like me,” joked Michel Richard , chef at Marble House in Newport. He was on hand for the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival one week before the opening of his new patissierie, or pastry shop, Pommes Palais, in New York.
While he was here he experimented with a new dish that is expected to appear on his new menu. He also had an unexpected encounter with a local chef whose style is not as different from his as it may appear.
Michel Richard was born in Brittany, France, where he first learned to make pastry. Even after nearly 40 years in America, living and cooking from coast to coast, he has not lost his distinct accent.
In 1975 he moved to New York after an apprenticeship in one of the most renowned patisseries in Paris. It was there that his journey discovering American cuisine and adding a French accent to it began. He did not remain in New York City for long, leaving after a few years to open a pastry shop in Santa Fe, N.M. Then he set up shop in Beverly Hills with his best-known restaurant, Citrus. Richard spent nearly 20 years cooking for the Hollywood crowd. He is considered a pioneer in French/California cuisine - nuanced flavors but without the heavy sauces and complicated seasonings.
After Citrus and a few other ventures up and down the West Coast, he then moved to Washington, D.C., where Michel Richard Citronelle became his flagship restaurant.
Jake Rojas, chef-owner of Tallulah on Thames in Newport, may well have crossed paths with Richard. During his own culinary journey that eventually brought him to the City by the Sea, he once was the executive chef of the Sunset restaurant in Malibu, Calif.
Rojas is one of the leading practitioners in our state of “farm-to-table” cooking. His menu features a list of what he calls Farms and Friends, a listing of the area farms and purveyors whose produce he turns into contemporary dishes.
Richard’s Central Michel Richard opened in downtown Washington, D.C., and won the 2008 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. Central Michel Richard in Atlantic City followed, with Central Michel Richard at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas opening in the fall of 2011. The Vegas version has a distinction among the distinctive spots on and off the Strip. The restaurant holds the distinction of being the first-ever restaurant helmed by a James Beard Award-winning chef to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outside of his restaurants, Richard regularly appears at charitable events and festivals across the country, designs menus for the National Gallery of Art, and his dishes are featured onboard Amtrak’s Acela First Class service.