Executive Chef Philippe Labbé is ending 2012 on a high note, for this week he was named “Cuisinier of the Year” by Gault & Millau. This honour follows the unanimously enthusiastic public acclaim for the three restaurants at Shangri-La Hotel, Paris: the gastronomic restaurant L’Abeille now has five toques, while Shang Palace, exclusively dedicated to Cantonese-influenced Chinese cooking, has three toques.
“It is a tremendous honour to receive the title of ‘Cuisinier of the Year’”, said Chef Labbé. “For me, it represents a wonderful and well-deserved recognition of all the work done by our teams over the past two years. But we still have much yet to do.”
Alain Borgers, the general manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, said, “The past 18 months have been extremely important for the hotel with the opening of two new restaurants. Creating exceptional and exciting new dining experiences required the unwavering dedication of Philippe Labbé and all our teams, and it is extremely gratifying to see their efforts distinguished by such a prestigious institution as Gault & Millau.”
Established over 40 years ago, the Gault & Millau brand was created by Henri Gault and Christian Millau, two journalists who were passionate about culinary creativity, vision and quality – in fact, they invented the concept of nouvelle cuisine, which dominated the 1980s and changed the way the world looked at gastronomy. Acquired by Otium Capital in 2009, the Gault & Millau brand continues to champion exceptional creativity and its publications and products – a magazine, travel guides, tours and online platforms – remain among the most recognised and highly respected in the French gastronomy and travel categories.
The gastronomic adventure began in December 2010, when Prince Roland Bonaparte’s former hôtel particulier reclaimed its rightful place in the Parisian landscape as the elegant and refined home of Shangri-La Hotel, Paris and its first restaurant, La Bauhinia. It continued in March 2011 when, next to the garden, the discreetly luxurious setting of L’Abeille was unveiled. This offered Chef Labbé new opportunities for expression, and soon it had conquered le tout Paris. The critics at Gault & Millau praised it as “one of the most dazzling cuisines” in the capital. Indeed, Chef Labbé exhibited creative daring that evolved with the seasons, using exceptional products. True to Chef Labbé’s signature style, the autumn menu is a veritable ode to the senses. The Chestnut Carpaccio and Cappelletti Stuffed with Fontina celebrate the white truffle. Ceps and Fricassée of Wild Mushrooms are sprinkled with fresh grated hazelnuts. The Beet Gaspacho becomes vibrant with the tang of Charroux mustard and king prawns, prepared live and barely cooked with yuzu zest, are misted with ginger water. Wild Duck Roasted à la Goutte de Sang; Roasted Back of Venison smoked with cinnamon; and Milk-Fed Lamb from the Aveyron keep company with Arctic Charr and Sea Bass from the Ile d'Yeu and Blue Lobster, a L’Abeille signature dish that can be savoured two ways: first, the claws sablé, then the tail, in black juniper berry and pumpkin cream.
Opened in September 2011, the Cantonese-inspired Shang Palace continued the gastronomic adventure under the direction of Chef Frank Xu and Chef Labbé. A unique combination of authenticity and creativity transforms the restaurant into a corner of Asia in the middle of Paris: fans of its dim sum are already legion, as they are for the celebrated Poulet du Mendiant, or “Beggar’s Chicken,” which is roasted in lotus leaves and baked in a clay crust. Other signature dishes include Lacquered Peking‑Style Duck Served Two Ways, with crispy skin followed by thinly sliced breast sautéed with lettuce leaves. Under La Bauhinia’s landmark glass dome, guests gather to enjoy light and colourful cuisine from a newly redesigned menu featuring an elegant mix of authentic Asian dishes and French classics. Duck with Red Curry Sauce is served with pineapple, grapes and basil; Indonesian Otak-Otak, or Cod en Papillote seasoned with curcuma, leaves of kaffir lime and coconut milk appears alongside a Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder glazed with lemon and red onions or a Steam Back Whiting with Artichokes and Cep Mushroom Fricassée in a Cep Consommé.
Philippe Labbé: an unrivalled gastronomic storyteller
Born in Troyes in 1961, Philippe Labbé grew up in a family of gourmets – his father, a charcuterie salesman, was passionate about cuisine. From a young age, Chef Labbé became accustomed to fine dining. One of his earliest memories is a meal at Charles Barrier, in Tours. Another is of a family holiday near Angers that featured a memorable dinner at the family-run restaurant, Hosten. Chef Labbé made a promise to himself to return there one day to workhich he did in 1980, after graduating from the Hotel School in Strasbourg. From there, Chef Labbé joined Bernard Loiseau at La Côte d’Or; he later met an “extraordinary teacher” in Michel Lorain and expanded his repertoire at the Auberge des Templiers.
From the glassed-in kitchens at Les Crayères, where Chef Labbé worked with Gérard Boyer, to destination restaurants on the Riviera – Le Moulin de Mougins, the Martinez and La Belle Otéro (in Cannes) – Chef Labbé honed his craft. In 1996, Chef Labbé joined the Plaza Athénée in Paris, where, together with Éric Briffard, he restructured the kitchen brigades and created a gastronomic restaurant. In 2001, Chef Labbé was at the Château de Bagnols when it received a Michelin star, and then he moved on to work his magic at the Château de la Chèvre d’Or. Nicknamed “the chiseller” for his sense of precision, Chef Labbé admits that he is all about the details, and that he constantly challenges himself in order to create cuisine that sparks emotion.
Today, Chef Labbé is channelling that ambition as executive chef at Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, which he joined in 2009. In addition to the restaurants – La Bauhinia, the address favoured by chic Parisians, and L’Abeille, the French gastronomic restaurant dedicated to dinners, which opened on 15 March 2011 – Chef Labbé orchestrates the menus for the reception salons and room service.
The “Cuisinier of the Year” award from Gault & Millau crowns an exceptional year in which Shangri-La Hotel, Paris also won three Michelin stars: two for L’Abeille and one for Shang Palace.