A visit to the delightful little town of Eugénie-les-Bains, reveals a wealth of natural beauty and a rather special spa resort. The stunning Hotel Les Prés d’Eugénie is a place to lure you to never want to leave…
The hotel Les Prés d’Eugénie
The Prés d’Eugénie named after a visit by the Empress Eugénie in 1861, wife of Napoloeon III, is owned by the great chef Michel Guérard. Nestled in a 7.6-hectare estate in Eugénie Les Bains in the Landes department. At the head of its 3-star restaurant, the only one in Aquitaine, Michel Guérard, was one of the main leaders with the legendary Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Alain Senderens, and Pierre Troisgros of the nouvelle cuisine movement in the 1970s.
Born in Vétheuil, Picardy in 1933, Guérard comes from a family of butchers/breeders and his career has taken him into some of the best kitchens in the world. In 1956, he was appointed pastry chef at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris and became, at the age of 25, in 1958, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF Pâtisserie). He later worked as a pastry chef at the Lido, and as a cook at the private receptions of the owners, the Clérico family. Then, he ran the kitchens in several large Parisian establishments, such as Lucas Carton, Maxim’s and La Pérouse. In 1965, he created the Pot-au-feu in Asnières-sur-Seine. In 1967, he obtained his first star in the Michelin Guide, and then a second in 1971.
3 Star dining
The restaurant quickly met with immense success and became the go-to restaurant for lovers of great food and ambiance – politicians, artists, journalists, French and visitors flocked there.
“In 1972” says the chef with a smile “I met my future wife Christine who convinced me to leave Paris and my beloved restaurant to join her in the Landes where she managed a small spa resort owned by her father in Eugénie-les-Bains. This thermal spa specialised in medical cures, especially the care of people with metabolic diseases, namely overweight, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. It was by observing people who had come here to lose weight, seated in front of large plates of carrots, hastily shredded, and summarily seasoned, that the idea came naturally to me as a cook to try to put my professional knowledge to make food that tastes great whilst doing good”.
“A plan took shape in my mind: cuisine based on the principle of calories, reducing sugars and fats, but where taste and pleasure were present. In 1976, together with my wife, I wrote a recipe book for Grande Cuisine Minceur® (recipe for dieters), the first part of which was devoted to educating the reader, in a practical way, on the physico-chemical phenomena that governs the culinary process. In the same year, I met the International President of the Nestlé Group, who came to Eugénie-les-Bains. He offered me a role as international culinary consultant for the group, which covered almost all the productions, especially frozen. The collaboration lasted 27 years, during which I had the good fortune to work with Nestlé research. With them I learned the chemistry of nutrients, what a lipid is, all about simple and complex carbohydrates, lactic protein, the Maillard reaction, techniques of transformations or substitutions. I worked with researchers, nutritionists, health engineers, biologists, sociologists, anthropologists, behaviourists and more…”
All this knowledge has gone into make the hotel Les Prés d’Eugénie and very special place. Whether you’re on a diet or not, you’ll adore the delicious cuisine, the gorgeous gardens and the fabulous décor.
Georges Lévêque is a photographer and garden specialist in France, find out more out his website: georgeslevequejardins.com