Alison and I visit Rungis several times a year and each and every visit we leave filled with inspiration.
Rungis is a dream to any culinary adventurer, a world class fish market, poultry hall, cheese monger market, tripe market, 9 fruit and vegetable pavilions and meat market, just to mention a few.
The market boasts equipment, wine, spice, charcuterie, chef clothing and several fine food specialists for the chefs to visit. There are fine dining restaurants, bistros, boulangeries, bars and cafés on site. The market covers 232 hectares, so large an entire train station and highway exit has been built to serve it.
The Fish, Poultry and Meat market are second to none, when it comes to sheer quality and choice.
What has always inspired me is the deep knowledge the vendors have of what they sell and the willingness to share and help you in finding what you are looking for.
Walking through the poultry market excites me as much now as it did when I visited the old poultry market there in the mid-70s as a young trainee chef, for nowhere on the planet is there a finer and larger selection of chicken, duck and game birds. Speaking to one of the Poultry vendors on our last visit, he informed us that at present he is airfreighting around 2 tons of produce a day to Japan alone.
When I was Executive chef of Hilton and Le Méridien hotels in London, as well as team captain of The British Craft Guild Culinary Team, I made it a point to take my young chefs on a visit to Paris and an intensive tour of the whole of Rungis.
This would normally find us leaving London at midday and arriving in Paris and the market at midnight and starting off at the Fish market which opens at midnight and finally ending with a walk through the 9 fruit and vegetable halls at 6.30am, before having breakfast at the bistro attached to the poultry market, sitting down having a Croque Madame and a glass of wine with all the vendors and staff who worked all night. I always refer to them as ‘Real People’ as there is not veneer, what you see is what you get, straightforwardness, no time for fools, hardworking and respect for those who know what they want when it comes to good ingredients, and a knowledge of how the produce should be prepared, for you can be assured, they know! On more than one occasion have I been witness to Chefs making a fool of themselves when underestimating the vendor’s in-depth knowledge of cookery.
It was here that I would always take the opportunity to take careful note of the enthusiasm and interest taken by my young chefs as we passed through each of the halls and pavilions.
Inevitably the interest and enthusiasm was a sure way of identifying their place in my brigade and the part they would play in it.
Passion and Ingredients are the two key elements needed for success in any reputable kitchen, and where better than Rungis could I identify them.
A young or aspiring chef’s hunger to grasp the knowledge and ability to identify good ingredients is a sure sign of the presence of Passion and inevitably a good indication of a young chef who is serious about his chosen career.
It was and still is the place where I take this opportunity.