Since he arrived at L’Oustau de Baumanière, Glenn Viel has made it a point of honor to cultivate a garden that respects the rhythm of nature, to raise animals, to minimize waste. Meet a role model.
“We’re all hummingbirds,” declares Glenn Viel. The two-Michelin-star chef of L’Oustau de Baumanière likes to repeat the fable popularized by Pierre Rabbhi in which two animals are trying to extinguish a forest fire – an elephant, with copious sprays from its trunk, and a hummingbird, drop by drop. When the pachyderm asks the bird what it is doing, it replies, “I’m doing my part.” In Les Baux de Provence, Glenn Viel is doing his part, and Jean-André Charial, the longstanding and still-present chef-owner of the premises, has given him carte blanche in that quest.
Since his arrival, Mr. Viel has been making the most of a very large estate spanning multiple levels, optimizing the space by creating several permaculture-inspired gardens, using mulch rather than plastic over the soil, and raising chickens and pigs. Autarky, he says, is not his objective – “We’ll never succeed, so we mustn’t kid ourselves” –, but he does strive for zero waste. The life of the pigs forms a virtuous circle, fed on organic waste to, with time, become a source of quality meat. But before ending up in the pigs’ trough, the plant peelings are given a second life in the restaurant. “Vegetable peels are in direct contact with the earth, they’re the link between the outside and the inside,” says the chef. “When we cook them, they produce incredible juices, just as potent as meat drippings.” Much to the delight of the customers, who feast on singular, intensely flavorful cuisine that is always light and sunny, no matter the season.