Thierry Thorens hardly could have avoided becoming a chef. In 1970, his father opened La Chamade, a simple "pizza and crepes" restaurant in Morzine in the Savoie region of the French Alps. In doing so, he continued a family tradition that began three generations ago and inspired his young son into the kitchen. "I was 15 when I started cooking," Thorens explains. "It has always been a part of my life."
At first content to work with the family, Thorens later set off on a culinary Tour de France, apprenticing at restaurants around the country, such as Paul Bocuse in Lyon. In 1983, he returned to Morzine to develop a terroir, or regional mountain cuisine. "The people of the Savoie territory created simple, rustic dishes, smoked and salted meats, cabbage soup, ragout, marked by regional ingredients," Thorens says. "I wanted to keep the connection with the past alive."
Today, as chef of La Chamade, 37-year-old Thorens has accomplished just that. His restaurant has grown into a respected authority on regional food.
Diners may experience Thorens' cuisine on two levels. A lovely, street-side bistro, with a wood-burning oven, French windows and red-and-white linen-topped tables, provides a casual atmosphere for enjoying thin-crusted pizzas (mussel and prawn); assiette de charcuterie (regional cold meats) or tartiflette (hot reblochon cheese with pan-fried potatoes and bacon). Upstairs, floral curtains, velvet wainscoting and dried flowers in copper pots add an air of elegance to dishes presented on hand-painted china. While the menu is filled with regional specialties, such as snails cooked in garlic cream sauce and roasted chicken with sweetbreads, special attention is paid to the presentation of pork. Following Savoie tradition, you'll find pork sausage, grilled pig's feet, suckling pig and offal, among other offerings.
For visitors not familiar with such rarified dishes, Thorens takes an unpretentious approach. "We respect the traditions of family-style dining," the chef says. "We'll offer one big plate with a lot of different dishes so people can discover and enjoy new things¿and eat what they like."
The Best Bubbly
Popping the cork on a bottle of champagne (or, more correctly, easing it out with a "sigh") is de rigueur on New Year's Eve. But why stop there? There's always something to celebrate in the high country. (Powder mornings. New skis. Tuesdays.) The following recommendations from our favorite ski town wine shops will help keep you in champagne all year long, no matter what your budget.
Of Grape & Grain
Gary Plumley, Owner
Splurge Veuve Clicquot Trilogie La Grande Dame '88, '89, '90, $825
Best Buy Pol Roger Brut Extra Cuvée de Reserve, $22
Sun Valley Wine Company
Sun Valley, ID
Craig Spiller, CEO
Splurge Krug Clos du Mesnil, $300
Best Buy Nicolas Feuillatte, $33
Brian Smith, Manager
Splurge Salon 1988 Blanc de Blanc Le Mesnil, $144
Best Buy Charles Heidsieck Millesime 1990 Vintage Brut, $42