Watching the clip, it’s Christopher Waltz’s face that strikes you. As the man with a (fake) gun and a (fake) grenade walks onto the podium of a live French TV chat show, the colour drains from the German Oscar-winner’s gob. He goes white as milk, which is the perfect counterpoint to the sapphire sea and golden sand backdrop that the broadcasters thought would make such a charming alfresco backdrop. This is what’s known as a catastrophic lapse in security. Bienvenue to Cannes, Chris. And cinematic jewellery heists withstanding, this is story of the week. One day later…
Standing at the trestle table, the burly guard is the icing on the cake. Never have I been more pleased to be bossed about by an ogrish behemoth wearing a black suit and an earpiece. ‘Stand here, sir. No. To the side. Yes. Wait. Show me your passes!’
‘Why of course,’ I purr compliantly and smugly. As I flourish my papers to get into my hotel (Yes. My hotel), mere mortals are dismissively shooed back onto the Croisette’s damask paving stones.
The Majestic Hotel is, alongside the Ritz Carlton and the Palais du Festival, the epicentre of the world’s most famous film gangbang. Getting even a modest room here during the two weeks of rapacious cine-deal making and posing is INCREDIBLY HARD.
After an afternoon of enjoying the promenade of chaos and rubbernecking that is the Croisette during Festival, I don my tux for a little strobing shimmy down the red carpet. During the course of the proceeding evening, I am frequently mistaken for…erm…no one. At all. French paparazzi obviously have incredibly good mental filing systems.
The fact that I’m being hosted by a company that makes freezers is utterly confounding.
Well, it is until one skips a very short beat to the Palais, some, oooh, eight seconds from the hotel’s sweeping, black Merc limo-strewn driveway. Right next to the very familiar steps is a huge white luxury-spec marquee. One half holds a suite of hospitality lounges. The other, a fully kitted out, Michelin restaurant-spec kitchen. All paid for and in the service of appliance manufacturer, Electrolux.
Whilst we may know them as a global leader in household appliances, the company is the chosen supplier of almost 50% of the Michelin starred restaurants in Europe.
The Electrolux Agora Pavillion is the company’s marker, showing their dedication to the festival and to forging a continuing association with some of the best cooking in the world, today. It’s the largest temporary structure in town and is home to all official culinary festival events, hosting as many as 45 chefs at its busiest periods with as many as 120 servers for 648 guests within a space of 1,000 square metres.
The Agora’s kitchens will be manned through the week by chefs boasting a total of eight Michelin stars between them. The Grand Jury will be sitting down and cogitating and arguing about the eventual winner of the Palme D’Or over meals cooked on these very stoves.
The creators of these feasts are, naturally, all professional Electrolux customers. Anne-Sophie Pic is best known for gaining three Michelin stars at Maison Pic, in southeast France. She is the fourth female chef to ever win three Michelin stars, being named Best Female Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2011. Bruno Oger is a two Michelin star holder and one time winner of Best French Chef of the Year. Renowned for food that offers taste and imagination, Oger is inspired by Mediterranean flavours and local produce.
Anne-Sophie and Bruno will collaborate to create the opening Gala dinner at Film Festival Cannes 2013. Alongside them, Claude Bosi from Mayfair’s Hibiscus is joined by the man who may well have invented forage-based cooking, Sweden’s Magnus Nilsson. This ex-sommelier is now head chef at one of the world’s most isolated and fascinating restaurants, Fäviken Magasinet. Positioned at number 34 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Fäviken only seats twelve guests per night. Only the dedicated gourmand will trek 750 kilometres north of Stockholm to taste his deeply seasonal rektún (‘real’) food.
All very well and good. But first, lunch. We’re sat at the chef’s table in the Agora’s kitchen.
A very delicate selection of dishes from Bruno Oger, featuring a saintly piece of sea bass in delicate puree that whispers of sophistication and an inspiring sense of morality, manners and good health. Talking afterwards, Bruno tells me that living a working life as hectic as his requires simple pleasures as a counterpoint. Simple food, going to the cinema with his wife and kids and no stress around the home. He points out that whilst the specialist equipment used in pro kitchens looks ‘difficult and expensive’, it is really designed to make the act of cooking as fast and efficient as possible.
With this in mind, the company is using the alignment of the showbiz and culinary planets to launch their Grand Cuisine range, the first and only professional cooking system designed for the home. They hope that a combination of high-end professional spec, truly intuitive, interactive touchscreen technology and exquisite design will ensure this cooking system becomes a genuine fixture (and fitting) for the world’s most exclusive homes. Until now, cooking techniques such as “cook and chill” and “sous-vide” have been the preserve of professional chefs. Now Electrolux is making this technology available for private homes.
Their Grand Cuisine cooking system comprises nine incredibly slick-looking products: Combination Oven, Blast Chiller, Induction Zone, Precision Vacuum Sealer, Gas Hob, Sear Hob, Surround Induction Zone, Stand Mixer and Bespoke Ventilation System. It also includes the Molteni, their iconic French-style cooking stove, looking like a Jules Verne battle tank and found in the best restaurants. Buying the lot will set you back £78,000. Two benefits of this outlay are a) a professional chef comes to your home and shows you how to get the most out of the system and b) if you get good, you could set up a restaurant and recoup the money. But you don’t actually have to release your inner Robuchon. Sci-fi smart touch screens on the big units allow for pre-set programmes, punched in by chefs, that cook anything from chateaubriand steak to airy meringues with precise heat and humidity to ensure perfect results. More confident cooks can, of course, go manual.
In their domestic display kitchen, Magnus Nilsson proves how quick and easy these appliances can be when he shows off an immaculate piece of brown trout he caught up in Arctic Sweden, the previous week. Having immediately rendered it near-impervious to spoilage at the time, using the vacuum sealer, he cuts it out and shows how fresh it is, with no refrigeration. Then he re-seals half of it with garlic petals and salt. The other half he cooks on the chromium hot plate. What looks like a mirror is actually the perfect cooking surface requiring no oil. It also never transfers flavours, meaning after the fish, he cooks crepe that tastes of crepe. 20 minutes after it’s vacuuming, the trout emerges from its bag as delicately delicious, fully edible (and how) gravlax. Encore!
Suddenly, I’ve lost my party and, trying to catch up, idly wander around the cavernous pavillion, before finding another whole snazzy lounge, previously hidden from view. There’s a long table, with people eating and chatting. Since I’m texting, I don’t really look up to check. I just stride forwards, assuming I’m with them. I’m not. The Grand Jury all stop and peer at me. Nicole Kidman. Steven Spielberg. Ang Lee. Jane Campion. All chewing. Gawping. As I stand there, it’s Christopher Waltz’s face that strikes me. He’s gone as white as milk. One word quietly falls out of his lips.