In 1973, Michel moved to New York City where he worked as a “poissonnier” at the famed La Caravelle in midtown Manhattan.
In French cuisine, a poissonnier is the chef responsible for every menu item containing seafood. Even a dish containing a nothing more than a half-cup of fish stock would fall under his or her provenance. The world of high-end French Cuisine is a demanding and unforgiving one. It is therefore necessary for the poissonier to become an expert in everything from mussels to menhaden. He or she must be a stickler for quality and freshness. Fish becomes something of an obsession for the poissonier.
After a two year stint in New York, Michel moved on to Los Angeles. He began working at L’Ermitage, a trend-setting restaurant for French Cuisine. Ever the poissonier, Michel was unsatisfied with the salmon that L’Ermitage was receiving from regional smoke houses. He decided to make his own.
At this time, Michel was working under Jean Berantrou, a demanding and ground-breaking restaurateur. As head chef of L’Ermitage, Berantou was known to go to extremes in his search for the finest meats and produce. He would pressure local farmers to cross-breed the perfect duck for fois gras or badger them into harvesting a new strain of green bean for authentic haricots-verts. Berantou’s passion and dedication would soon elevate him in the culinary world. He would soon be considered a visionary of West Coast Cuisine.
Eventually Michel himself rose to become head chef at L’Ermitage. One cannot claim that it was on the strength of his smoked salmon that he reached these heights, but we can say that perfecting the cold smoked delicacy certainly didn’t hurt his chances.
In 1995, after years of leading some of L.A.’s most highly-regarded restaurants, Michel decided to return to the ancient art he had mastered early on in his career: cold smoked fish. He opened Michel Cordon Bleu, a state of the art smoking facility in Los Angeles.
One reason Michel’s cold smoked fish is so delectable is that during the smoking process the salmon never reaches more than 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The fish is infused with a smoky flavor, but cures instead of cooks. It remains moist and tender: a true artisanal food, and a bonafide delicacy.
We now have Michel Blanchet’s salmon available at Kanaloa. It is delicious in pastas and quiches, in terrines or scrambled eggs, or simply on a bagel with cream cheese. Be sure to ask for this delicacy at our retail counter!