The Château du Clos de Vougeot, with its rich and unique historical heritage, has become a Mecca for French gastronomy thanks to its world-renowned banquets and receptions.
Although it can lay no claim to gastronomic awards, the Château would no doubt earn the esteem and respect of some of those food critics who tirelessly stalk the restaurants of France and beyond, bestowing their prestigious stars, medallions and forks.
But then the Château du Clos de Vougeot, set spectacularly in the heart of Burgundy’s wine growing region, is a table d’hôte like no other. Home and headquarters of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin since 1945, the Château is a top class dining venue specialising in… gala banquets.
“We have to prepare up to 29,000 set dinners a year,” explains Olivier Walch, the chef in charge of the kitchens at the Château for the last fifteen years. “Most of our time is taken up with the chapitre banquets organised by the Chevaliers du Tastevin, but there are also business seminars, marriage receptions and other private functions”.
This evening, 600 guests will sit down to dine in the great cellier built by the monks of Cîteaux in the 12th century, and, in the kitchen, there is no place for complacency: “Working here is not the same as in a restaurant,” Olivier Walch continues, “not only do you have to prepare meals of the quality you would expect in a top-class restaurant, but you have to prepare many more of them – and that’s a never ending challenge!”
A few hours before the banquet, and there is a lot to do. The menu is a copious one: consommé of chicken followed by terrine of three kinds of game, a DubarryGrand veneur sauce with a sweet-chestnut flan, a digestive of Burgundy brandy between courses, cheese, a dessert, coffee and liqueurs. But the highlight of the evening is undoubtedly the fourth course: les oeufs en meurette. of scallops garnished with sea urchin, a tournedos in a
This is one of Chef Olivier Walch’s specialities. The challenge he faces is to serve 1,200 soft-boiled eggs to the 600 guests – eggs topped with a sauce which has been simmering for several hours now, and into which has gone a rich reduced duck-stock, pork belly, boned shoulder of veal, the odd vegetable or two and, last but not least, Burgundy wine.
While this is going on, there is much activity in the great cellier. Under the directions of the maître d’hôtel, the places are set out with meticulous care. This evening everything must be perfect. There are 4,200 glasses to be set up, since, it hardly needs saying, the dinner is to be accompanied by an array of fine wines. Harmonising dishes and wines is a French speciality, and they have got it down to a fine art at the Château du Clos de Vougeot.
In the great Cellier everything is ready. All the places are set and the first guests arrive at the Château. After a cocktail served in the main courtyard, the bell rings and the first of several hours of feasting gets under way.
Back in the kitchen the rush is on, as the Dubarry of scallops are prepared. Each must be served hot and within three minutes. For this reason the serving procedure is very precise. The waiters stand ready at the end of the tables, looking towards the maître d’hôtel for the signal to begin serving in unison.
In the great Cellier, it is the moment of truth.
A traditional recipe, a wine carefully chosen to match, the unique historical setting, a profound respect for the produce of the region, a table arranged with perfect savoir faire – these are some of the reasons which make the Château du Clos de Vougeot so decidedly different.
from "des Racines et des Ailes" and Michel Giraud, Bourgogne Magazine