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Top chefs in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Every year, France’s tastiest TV show Top Chef brings the stars of French gastronomy together to coach, challenge and unveil the upcoming chefs set to bring excellence to tomorrow’s plates. Close-up on the kitchen geniuses who make life in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur even more delicious!

Head Chefs

What would a Top Chef be without their kitchen brigade? In the TV show, candidates are divided into teams coached by Head Chefs – all big names in the gastronomy world. Among them feature two celebrities whose Michelin-starred creations fly the glittering flag of French cuisine in Provence: Hélène Darroze and Glenn Viel. Named “World’s Best Female Chef” in 2015 and the proud holder of three Michelin stars in London and two in Paris, Hélène Darroze chose to open a restaurant (also Michelin-starred) in the South of France in 2021, at the Hôtel Villa La Coste in Puy-Sainte-Réparade. On the menu: sincere cuisine that draws its inspiration from the gardens of La Coste and its vicinity and gives pride of place to local produce. Already known and reputed for her restaurants, Hélène has also made her mark on Top Chef, where she has the role of Head Chef. And her candidate has won the contest 3 years in a row! Chef Glenn Viel has set up home in Les Baux-de-Provence, where he presides over the kitchen at L’Oustau de Baumanière. Awarded three solidly-anchored Michelin stars, his creative, inventive and authentic cuisine needs no introductions. In this haven of peace tucked away between the typical limestone rocks of Les Baux-de-Provence, the chef has fostered an organic vegetable garden, an orchard, beehives and even wooden drying racks for his tomatoes. Every day, he fights against food waste and his ecological, local approach has now been rewarded with a Michelin Green Star, distinguishing chefs committed to eco-friendly cuisine.

Illustrious guests

In addition to Head Chefs, the TV show also invites various celebrity chefs from the fine dining world to take part in the (very demanding) jury. Their job is to put the candidates through the mill! Regular guests include three monuments of gastronomy in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur: Pierre Gagnaire, Alexandre Mazzia and Mauro Colagreco. The first, sometimes nicknamed “the iconoclast”, appears regularly on the show, where he presents the candidates with tough culinary challenges. A fervent fan of fine ingredients and lover of art and music, Pierre Gagnaire’s cuisine systematically honours the produce behind his aesthetic creations and cleverly-paced menus. In 2019, the Gault & Millau guide distinguished him as one of their 10 “Toques d’Or”, hoisting him to the ranks of French gastronomy demigod. The Michelin-starred chef chose the Villa Saint-Ange in Aix-en-Provence as the location for his restaurant Âma Terra; his dishes are inspired by Provence’s magnificent land and sea produce. A few kilometres away, in the beating heart of Marseille, you’ll find another regular Top Chef jury member: Alexandre Mazzia. This Michelin 3-starred chef opened his restaurant L’AM in 2021, in the city’s 8th arrondissement. Named “Chef of the Year” in 2018, his cuisine is an ode to the senses, somewhat inspired by his childhood in the Congo. A genuine artist-chef, he plays with flavours to transcend the codes of the gastronomy world. Let’s move out of the city to the Côte d’Azur – Menton to be precise. This is the home of Mirazur, elected “World’s Best Restaurant” in 2019 and decorated with three Michelin stars and a sustainable gastronomy Green Star. At the helm, the unmistakeable Mauro Colagreco is renowned for his passion for ecology and biodynamic growing – the hallmark of his carefree, creative and local cuisine. In season 12 of Top Chef, he even asked the candidates to dream up a dish dedicated to defending the environment.

Three Top Chef finalists

Although a winner has to be picked at the end of each season, Top Chef is an opportunity for the other candidates to make a name for themselves too. The longer each candidate stays in the running, the better chance they get to express their talent and develop their notoriety. That’s why the Top Chef finalists enjoy almost as much renown as the actual winners. Several of these young talents have opted to open a restaurant in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Let’s begin with Top Chef season 2 finalist Fanny Rey, also the first woman to wine the “Jeunes Étoiles de Mougins” competition. In 2017, she was elected “Female Chef of the Year” and her restaurant L’Auberge de Saint-Rémy, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, was crowned with its first Michelin star. Her extremely-flavourful dishes are concocted with magnificent produce from the Alpilles and markets of Provence. In Martigues, you’ll find season 4 finalist Fabien Morreale. Originating from the town, he is now the proud owner of three restaurants: Le Garage, serving creative gastronomic fare, Le Gusto Caffe, a trattoria-style Italian bistro and the burger temple Le Gaillard. Season 7 of Top Chef was marked by another culinary virtuoso who has now set up home in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur: Coline Faulquier. After receiving the “Young Talent” distinction from the Gault & Millau guide, she opened her restaurant Le Signature in the heart of Marseille’s 8th arrondissement, where she regales guests with sunny, generous and precise gourmet dishes. In 2021, the Michelin Guide crowned her with a first star topped with the very prestigious “Young Chef Award”. A second star in the pipeline maybe?

Three former candidates who made their mark on Top Chef

In addition to the show’s finalists, various candidates over the years have been able to use Top Chef as a springboard for their career. Ludovic Turac stood out throughout the challenges presented in season 2, and was even invited back in season 4. After Top Chef, this born and bred Marseillais took over the reins of the restaurant Une Table au Sud, on the city’s Old Port. France’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, his cuisine gives nods to local specialities such as aïoli or bouillabaisse. In 2013, he took on Fanny Aimerito, who worked alongside him for 7 years before becoming a Top Chef candidate in turn! Although her appearance on the show turned out to be fleeting, her culinary adventure was far from over. Quite the contrary: she went on to open her own restaurant – Favouille – in Éguilles. Deeply attached to local ingredients and authentic flavours, her cuisine is an ode to short distribution circuits and seasonal ingredients. Last but not least, season 13 of Top Chef in 2022 was marked by a chef from the Var area. Already a holder of the “Best French Apprentice” title since 2020, Pascal Barandoni won the “Objectif Top Chef” preparatory contest and performed remarkably on Top Chef, where he was part of Philippe Etchebest’s brigade. Today, he pours his talent and love of local produce into his culinary creations at the restaurant Le Mas du Lingousto, in Cuers.

To discover