The Mandarin Oriental, a chain of 5 star hotels, has put pizza on the menu for the first time in Paris. The initiative was headed up by molecular food specialist Thierry Marx who holds two Michelin stars and a ton of prestige throughout France. The hotel is situated in one of Paris' wealthiest districts, flanked by designer shops such as Louis Vuitton and Coach.
Marx brought in Bruno Bertrand, head chef at Lactalis, to formulate the menu of haute gamme pizza for the luxurious hotel. Bertrand says it took about two weeks to come up with the menu and perfect it. Among Italian specialties with Parma ham or burrata, there were some exceptionally chic pizzas such as the Camélia which used crème fraîche colored with squid ink for the base. There was also the Pizza Exception which was topped with fine caviar and pieces of gold leaf.
In France, pizza has long been considered simple food not fit for prestigious restaurants such as those in 5 star hotels. Bertrand warned me before coming "this is not a pizzeria neighborhood," essentially meaning "this place has class." But he along with Thierry Marx are changing all that with the introduction of pizzas which offer the same decadence as other haute cuisine. "The idea is to cook very good cuisine on top of the pizza," says Bertrand. "The pizza is used as a plate for something more complex and exciting than simply ham and cheese."
The pizzas which run between $42-96 USD have been very well received at the hotel. One customer came to Bertrand during the interview to express extreme satisfaction with the squid ink pizza (pictured to the right). Bringing in chic pizza is part of a promotion to encourage tourism in Paris. Bertrand states, "after the attacks in Paris the number of visitors to the hotel started declining and after what happened in Nice there were a lot of cancelations at the Mandarin Oriental. So they are using pizza as a way to set them apart from other hotels, to show they aren't serving the same old dishes." This special promotion ends July 23 but Bertrand hopes that pizza will become a regular menu item at the Mandarin Oriental.
As chef at Lactilis, and a professor at his own pizza school Esprit Pizza, Bertrand is always taking pizza to the next level. His pizzeria is located near the city Nantes in the small town of Nort-Sur-Erdre.