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Alpine Ways

Antoine Gras showcases stellar cuisine in Val d’Isère.

A dish envisioned by Antoine Gras

For chef Antoine Gras, Val d’Isère in France is more than a ski resort, it is a rich ecosystem of producers, dairy farmers, wild herbs, scents and flavours. His stellar cuisine at Les Barmes de l’Ours is showcased inside a vast room redesigned and hand-manufactured by local carpenter Christophe Mattis: salvaged and reclaimed wood is mixed with mirrors and textiles that hint at rocks and rivers to compose a unique alpine décor.

The chef’s approach is both contemporary and rooted in rural traditions: “I want my cuisine to be part of the local culinary history and, when products travel longer distances, I cook them using alpine techniques,” Gras adds.

Made with carrots, gentian and hazelnuts, his langoustine is a tribute to mountain fields, the gentian being traditionally used to distil strong liqueurs. The turbot wrapped in cabbage leaf has become another signature dish; it is simmered slowly in a casserole dish, like a hearty Savoyard stew. The chefs also hand-pick aged cheese vintages and source local freshwater fish such as féra (which is similar to pike). His cuisine would not be complete without his jus. “It is what gives personality to a dish: we develop complex bases that are worked on over time, then rested and further reduced. My passion for sauces was passed on to me by Arnaud Donckele [three-Michelin-starred chef], with whom I worked a lot with and learnt even more from.”


Antoine Gras

Born in the Auvergne and raised by a father who was a cabinet maker, Gras likes working from a raw product to refine it; his grandparents were farmers who raised pigs and grew vegetables, which pushes him to work with the best seasonal produce.

Spending winters in Val d’Isère and summers in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Gras adapts his recipes to the local terroir. His goat’s cheese tartelette with mousse, combined with a cottage-cheese sorbet, is made using fresh goat’s milk from an organic farm two minutes’ away from the restaurant, local mountain milk and walnuts, and cottage cheese from the nearest village.

Les Barmes de l’Ours (c) Nicolas Anetson

In a similar manner, Gras prepares daily a combination of smoked butter, raw butter and whipped butter that he places on every table, every night. During summer months he forages herbs and plants to either dry or preserve them for the next season. Gras even prepares gentian and juniper oils and vinegars in summer that add a twist to hearty winter stews. His daily commitment to local farmers and community is clearly what helps him steer his cuisine in a creative, sustainable and alpine direction.