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Doctor Gastronomy

Stephanie Curtis - December 2013

Eugénie-les-Bains, France—Dubbed the “premier village minceur de France” (France’s first slimming village), this hamlet of 540 inhabitants, lost between the corn fields and duck farms of Southwest France, merits its title more than ever since the inauguration in September of Michel Guérard’s much anticipated École de Cuisine de Santé (School of Healthy Cooking). The unveiling of the ultra-modern teaching kitchen in an elegant glass and brick Napoleon III–style pavilion nestled among bamboo trees marked the realization of a long-held and carefully nurtured dream for one of France’s greatest contemporary chefs.

The school, which will be open to both culinary and health professionals, is the result of several decades of research backed by his conviction that haute French cuisine doesn’t necessarily mean health-harmful levels of calories, fat, salt, and sugar. Guérard, whose original ambition was to be a doctor, speaks of “muting” unfavorable components by, for example, replacing some of the oil in a vinaigrette with a flavorful bouillon, substituting whipped egg whites for whipped cream in a dessert, or making a mayonnaise with fromage blanc.

Located a stone’s throw from Les Prés d’Eugénie, the gastronomic restaurant crowned with three Michelin stars since 1977, and just in front of a traditional thermal bath establishment whose natural spring waters are reputed to treat metabolic disorders, the school is the latest satellite in the Guérard galaxy, which also includes luxury hotels, three restaurants, and a spa.

If your French is up to snuff, you can learn more about the program here: