A challenge for the REAL foodies out there


The idea came to me last evening as I was preparing dinner. All I had left in the pantry were really good potatoes from the Farmer’s Market. So I made French fries and ate them with just a bit of salt. I could not remember when I had enjoyed just plain French fries for the last time. No ketchup, no mayo, no chicken or filet on the side. Just plain fried potatoes… I don’t know why we always complicate things. I really don’t. Elaborate, creative dishes are wonderful to prepare and share, but simplicity brings out the best in most things. We must reacquaint ourselves with the basic taste of things. We must reconnect with authentic, basic foods and cooking techniques.


Nobody can really tell the authentic taste of a potato when it is swimming in sauce or the goodness of free range chicken in the middle of a 7 ingredient sandwich with mayo… Granted those are fantastic, it’s not the point I’m trying to make…

  • This exercise will help us realize or remind ourselves of (as I know that all of my fellow foodies already know this) the core importance of the quality of a single produce
  • It will encourage us to do some research and ask the right questions to the right vendors (who should be experts)
  • This will also help us really taste and feel the exact impact of different cooking techniques. So I encourage you to try as many as possible for each main ingredient you’ll choose to put to the test
  • It will bring to light the benefits of seasonal shopping, organic produce etc.
  • Reacquainting yourself with the taste of one single original produce, may trigger your creativity and give you ideas for new dishes or new food pairingsIMG_4422 _Snapseed

So here is your mission should you choose to accept it:

Choose one produce/ingredient, prepare it and taste it. Do your research, take your time, pick the right food item, prepare it following the guidelines below, eat consciously, share your experienceIMG_4663

The rules:

  • You may only use one produce + salt + butter or olive oil or lemon
  • If not scolding hot, you will eat with your fingers! We want the most symbiotic, raw experience possible!
  • The main ingredient has to be in season or available year round (like eggs)
  • No garlic, vinegar or ginger or anything that could overpower the taste of the main ingredient
  • You’ll have to eat this alone or with other foodies. No kids allowed! When I say kids, I mean anyone who could distract you from the experience. Husband, best friends or wives can be considered kids in this scenario :0)
  • Eat with your eyes closed if possible!!! This will really help you be more aware of all your senses
  • If at all possible, eat something you fished yourself, grew in your garden or picked in the woods (be careful with berries and mushrooms!). This will bring this experience to a whole other level…IMG_9408 _SnapseedIMG_6093IMG_0082 _Snapseed


  • Smoked salmon with a touch of lemon
  • Poached egg with a little salt
  • Rack of lamb
  • Oysters
  • Seared scallops with a drop of lemon
  • Steamed kale or bok choy with olive oil from Provence, Italy or Greece
  • Plain French fries
  • Boiled potato with real butter from the farm
  • Filet of beef with salt and pepper
  • Wild fish cooked in salt in the ovenphoto 4 _Snapseed

I recommend using the most authentic cooking techniques: steam, BBQ or oven.

A real cook can impress on produce and cooking method alone. A real foodie will know how to appreciate one single produce cooked to perfection!

As Chanel said: “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” Think of the “dish” you are going to prepare for this challenge as making the most simple and most elegant little black dress Chanel ever made… a precious present to yourself!

I can’t wait to hear about your experiences! Please share!!!srth

51 Comments Add yours

  1. Pingback: Apples | jmn artsy
  2. saucygander says:

    Hello Stephane, I finally took up your challenge (how could I say no to a challenge for ‘real foodies’?) in this post (the last section). Thanks for a great idea, even though I didn’t post my response to your challenge until now, it’s been in my mind all through Christmas, and I believe has helped me to enjoy food and cooking that much more. Thanks!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I really liked your post. You live in such a heavenly area too…

      1. saucygander says:

        Want to swap?? 😛

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Nope 🙂

  3. joegergen says:

    Simple has become so lost on people. Maybe because in order to enjoy simple you must slow down and pay attention. Getting too fancy is like watching Avatar: we re so dazzled by the spectacle that we forget about the narrative root.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I couldn not agree more!

  4. feelbetterin4days says:

    Love your post (A challenge for the real foodie)! I too, like challenges and spicing things up once in a while, but LOVE to keep it simple too. Happy New Year!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Happy New Year to you too my friend!!

  5. tishmoon says:

    Your photos are stunning… Lying in bed reading just now, dreaming of chard, or water spinach, or a filet… Sigh. Thanks for the inspiration !

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you so much. You are very kind! I visited your blog and really liked its spirit as well. 🙂

      1. tishmoon says:

        Oh my gosh, thanks so much for visiting ! =)

  6. janina says:

    A man after my own heart! 😛
    An award for you Stephane: http://jmnartsy.com/2013/12/21/wordpress-family-award/.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      What a lovely Christmas present Janina! You make me feel very special!! Merry Christmas darling!!!

  7. Rörschåch says:

    Stephane darling! The day I realized that I ate potatoes for the ketchup or butter, rather than for the potato itself, I stopped eating them. I switched to sweet potatoes. I can eat those with just a bit of salt and be thoroughly pleased.

    As always, your photos are magnificent. I can smell the steak cooking all the way to Colorado.

    Christmas hugs and good cheer to you and yours!


    1. My French Heaven says:

      My darling Janet, I am so sorry for the late answer to your lovely comment. I think I could eat ketchup on it’s own actually 🙂 It’s like an American Gaspacho 🙂 😉 Joking aside, I wish you a merry Christmas and all the best for the year to come. I have the feeling it’s going to be a great one for both of us in our new lives!!! 😉

  8. breadispain says:

    I love this idea – it really reminds me of what eating in Italy is all about. Is it cheating if it is something that I make often? Probably – but still, mine is raw, ground veal (or beef if you are anti-veal) with salt and olive oil. Sweet, soft, and you can really taste the meat as opposed to the prepared tartars that you so often find in restaurants – all that mustard, shallot, etc is not necessary.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh you make me miss Italy soooooo much. I haven’t been in years and I so long to do so… Merry Christmas 🙂

  9. lolarugula says:

    What a wonderful post! I roasted a duck recently – it’s one of my favorite things to cook at the holidays – and it involves nothing but salt and pepper. People always rave about it and I always emphasize that sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious.

  10. Gallivanta says:

    I like nothing better than a new potato with a little butter and salt, or as I was doing this morning; delighting in picking and eating my own sunripened blackcurrants. Gooseberries I sampled today for the first time in 50 years; plain, unadorned gooseberries….gorgeous.

  11. Louise says:

    Or a Malpèque oyster, icy cold, with a splash of lemon juice. Or an olive? A simple olive? (Stop me, I can go on and on).

  12. Louise says:

    Un homard! Boiled with seaweed if possible. Drawn butter with lemon juice. Eaten with the fingers. Heaven.

  13. Few days ago, a friend of mine give me a lot of persimmons. They were absolutely scrumptious, juste like that, Plain, raw. Cutted in the middle, we ate them just with a spoon. They were quite too ripe and totally bitternessless. The perfection, the heaven of the fruit. Perfect tatste, perfect color, perfect texture… OMG, your post comes very well !

  14. Tonight, it’s roasted beets, rainbow chard sauted in olive oil with a spritz of lemon, and maybe some soup….love to eat this way, as it surely does showcase the food instead of the “condiments” that can consume the food prior to the first bite! LOL!

  15. madisonlanz says:

    LOVE it. Awesome post!

  16. Heather in Arles says:

    I love this. I have been roasting everything in the oven as of late–a little bit of olive oil and salt and that is it. Today I bought a giant head of cabbage that I am going to roast. So will follow your rules and enjoy. Merci, Stéphane. Vos photos sont magnifiques, comme toujours…

  17. chefjoehunt says:

    I like this, I did something similar in the summer. I was out walking, picked some blackberries off the bush, sat down and closed my eyes and ate them there and then. It was possibly the most amazing blackberry taste I have had. Just the texture alone with eyes closed was a whole experience. I think food can sometimes be over complicated, keep it simple with good quality ingredients and you’re laughing.

  18. Dina says:

    You are a true artist, Stephane! You bring soul, love and life into your cooking. Elegant, tasteful and down to perfection in every little detail.
    I’d go for any of your examples, all great tastes. I’ve made a mental note what to get to now …

  19. Wonderful pictures, so atmospheric and mysterious… great idea – I did it last week with freshly picked broad beans. I ate them with just some melted butter… little green jewels, unsullied by anything else – exquisite. . (My husband had steak and new potatoes of course)

  20. Well said! Ever since I’ve been eating organic food (about 12-13 years ago), I feel like my taste buds have developed so much, I now appreciate each ingredient that much more. And funny enough, whenever I’m feeling ‘under the weather’ or if I’m sick (which doesn’t happen often), I will quickly boil/steam some local organic potatoes and a large carrot, and eat them smashed with a little bit of organic butter and some unrefined grey sea salt (from France!). The taste is unbelievable.

  21. fatgirlkr says:

    Wonderful, not a fan of Kim Kardashian then lol

  22. This is a great idea! Love your photo’s

  23. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography) says:

    Great idea. In a roundabout way, most foods I eat in summer are eaten like this. As a single person who has limited health & energy, I tend to graze on raw ingredients as it’s not worth ‘cooking for one’. The tomatoes I had last night were so juicy and ripe – the taste sort of explodes in the mouth. The cucumber slices I snacked on were just the same. I steam simple foods that most people would not think of steaming. Fresh mushrooms or red capsicum are good examples. They taste so ‘meaty’ and ‘sweet’ (compared to when you chop them and use them in a recipe).

  24. Sounds heavenly, Stephane. Not sure I can do this before Christmas (as I have a six-day block of time out for getting our younger daughter from school and some other things), but I want to do it when I have time. For simplicity, one of my favorites, although not in season here now, is roasted asparagus. Divine!!


  25. Very much in line with my favorite type of cooking! I actually do more cooking with just salt/pepper/olive oil than it seems because it doesn’t seem as interesting to blog about. I almost always try to make the produce shine rather than to overpower with spices and herbs. When I come across some nice produce, I will do a post and link to yours. The first thing that comes to mind is when I did roasted chicken last summer. They had only been brined with salt and sugar and then roasted over an open fire. Nothing else, not even pepper. Everyone loved them and wouldn’t believe that it was only chicken with salt and sugar, even though they had seen me prepare it.
    Thanks very much for the great post and challenge! To be continued.

    1. ladyredspecs says:

      Hey Stephane, I rose to the challenge, read my experience in today’s post, “Mindful Consumption”. Happy Christmas

      1. My French Heaven says:

        I miss cherries so much now. You are so evil. Merry Christmas all the same 😉 🙂

  26. I read your post, and I was like nodding in agreement the whole time 🙂 we do like to complicate things a bit much sometimes for no good reason. But I’ve done what you suggest many times, just so I know what something really tastes like. I also taste spices on their own, and vinegars and oils. It’s good practice I think. I went to a restaurant yesterday and ordered trout. That trout tasted of bread crumbs smothered in beurre blanc and lemon, the subtle flavor of the fish… gone. 17 bucks. hahhah

  27. chef mimi says:

    Funny. I just had lamb for lunch, cooked in olive oil, sprinkled with salt. Perfection.

  28. talkavino says:

    An interesting challenge. So I’m assuming the steak with salt and pepper will qualify? Or how about one of the simplest dishes possible – ripe tomato, cut up into triangles, with salt and pepper? If you got the right fresh tomato, there are very few things which can beat that experience…

  29. Hey, you didn’t show those gorgeous, golden French fries!

  30. hollykaann says:

    I’m in, in the garden I have Kale, carrots, and spinach. Let me think…

  31. juliabarrett says:

    I actually managed this last night – by accident. We only began eating meat a few years ago– were vegetarians. Last night I made pork chops, thick French cut, bone in. A couple hours before cooking I seasoned the on each side with salt and pepper and stuck them back in the fridge. Sauteed them in a super hot pan – 5 minutes per side – in canola oil – then placed the entire pan in a hot oven for eight minutes. I made applesauce and a sour purple cabbage to accompany the chops. My husband put his meat on a separate plate and ate it all, all alone, no accompaniment. He said – the meat is so good by itself, why would I want to spoil it with any other flavor?
    You are so right!

  32. I like and agree with your observations.
    When I went to cooking school I’ve learned how to make elaborated, complicated dishes, and loved it. But the more I cook, the more I’m going back into more simple, down to earth foods.
    I know there is a time and place for everything, and always appreciate the labor and skills involved in haut cuisine, but I think we should really keep that for special occasions.
    I see a lot of frustration with people on my cooking demos, who try hard to produce complicated dishes at a home kitchen, mostly unsuccessfully. I always say to such people – leave that type of foods for the pros and cook good, simple foods at home. Sometimes they even get it! 🙂

  33. Richa Gupta says:

    Lovely post and great concept! We don’t do simplicity often enough. Back to basics is so refreshing in these times of opulence, even with food.

  34. cathynd95 says:

    How co-insidental this is as just the other day I steamed a bunch of green beans, added just a bit of butter, a dash of salt, and this was my dinner, nothing else. Completely enjoyable and satisfying!

  35. Michelle Barge says:

    I long for your posts. I kick off my day with a big cup of cafe au lait and read my food and interior design blogs — but YOURS and MANGER make me want to move to FRANCE! Merci!

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