Legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire (left) would be the last person to articulate his own incredible genius. But by example, he's encouraged young chefs to break free of the rules that have governed the French canon for so long. "There is no one doing creative cooking who does not go to taste Pierre's food and get inspired by him," says famed French chef Daniel Boulud.
"Earth, color, red things," are the words Pierre Gagnaire uses to describe the Hermès perfume that inspired his dish, Parfums de Terre. This marvelous soup is one of the dish's seven components. Both the foie gras that enriches the broth and the lentil gnocchi are earthy; the lightly pickled onion wedges add brightness and tang, not to mention a hint of color.
For this appetizer, Pierre Gagnaire cleverly weaves together two major ingredients, shrimp and chickpeas: He quickly sears shrimp and uses the shells to make a stock to flavor the hummus. He then uses chickpeas to make the delicate cracker garnish. At his eponymous restaurant in Paris, it's part of a dish called Orientale, inspired by his walks in the desert. (He takes those walks when he's cooking at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire in Dubai and his newest place, Twist, in Las Vegas.) "I like the silence. The wind. The simple rhythm of the days," he says.
This lightly sweet pastry, studded with caramelized apple, is one component of an elaborate dish entitled Brillat-Savarin. Its major ingredients—apples, crème fraîche, Calvados and the Brillat-Savarin cheese—all come from Normandy in France.