Let’s meet Sandrine Virefleau, head chef of the « ferme auberge » of the Domaine De La Font Des Pères. Since opening in July 2018, Sandrine has put in place there a menu which brings our farm products to the fore, where she combines a friendly atmosphere with gastronomy. Today, the fame of her cooking goes beyond the frontiers of the Var region.
What is the philosophy of the « ferme auberge » La Font Des Pères ?
Our philosophy is to show off our very own farm produce in a happy environment. We use everything that we plant and grow here : fruit, vegetables, chickens and eggs. We even use my herbs from my own herb garden just outside my kitchen, with which I season my sauces and salads.
Focusing on local recipes, our menus are developed using home produce, enabling us to have the quality expected at the auberge. We prioritise the use of local suppliers in whom we have confidence, which means we can produce everything fresher ansd tastier.
Where are you able to find your inspiration for your dishes ?
My inspiration comes from the product ! I use whatever is in season in the garden, and adapt to the fish which is delivered from Bandol, or meat depending on its colour and texture at the time.
For the fish, it passes fresh from the sea directly to the plate. I tend to be inspired by what is caught that day. Last summer, 30 kg of tuna, caught the night before, was a real treat for our customers.
Further more, I like to innovate, because I think it’s important to have new ideas ; to try new flavours. It is also important to prepare in advance. I think ahead how I might show the produce in its best light. With this in mind, summer is coming soon. I have got to start thinking of menus to propose using the tastiest food and vegetables, and those which are richest in colour and taste.
Which dishes characterise the « ferme auberge » La Font Des Pères ?
« Oeuf cocotte » ! One can’t come to La Font Des Pères without sampling « Oeuf cocotte ». One has to try it at least once in a lifetime. It is a simple dish but delicious, for one associates it with caviar, Iberian ham, sea urchin and « poutargue ». One still keeps the principle element, that is fresh farm eggs, with an original idea for the preparation. It is the combination of simplicity and sophistication.
In summer, one has all the vegetables ripened by the sun. Therefore, our menu is richer and more colourful. We do a lot of fried tomatoes with eggs and tomatoes « à la provençale ». One can say that the dishes which characterise the auberge are those which are in season.
I make my own chicken ravioli, using our pasta and our own stuffing, chicken rolls with fresh goat cheese, pesto sauce and roquette salad… I could go on for hours !
And because we are a wine-growing property, dishes reflect the quality of our wine. It is the best way to do tasting. But that is the job of Marc, the sommelier. Before the visits to the cellars, I prepare the snacks, homemade of course, which will make the wine taste better.
What are the advantages to being the head chef of La Font Des Pères ?
Firstly, the view. The farm is in incredible surroundings, a bit like being in the mountains… it’s better than by the sea !
Afterwards, it is the satisfaction of working with ingredients fresh from the ground, serving our own produce that we have grown. It is the first time I have had everything immediately to hand, which gives additional quality to the end product.
To be head chef at the auberge, it is being close to all the food. Actually, I meet meat producers of Label Rouge, who are proud of their work. One knows how the animals are reared and treated. It is the return of authenticity.
What connection do you have with the clients ?
The kitchen is open, so the custumers thank me, thank « US », because we are, above all, a team. We watch to see if they are satisfied, we see them smile – that pleases us greatly. We have immediate come back. In a classical restaurant, where the kitchen is separated, there is always someone else between the chef and the client to deliver the compliments. Here, it is direct ! Often people ask me how I cook certain dishes. How I can produce certain flavours. They go away none the wiser, however, because a chef can never divulge his secrets. So I often change the subjet…
Authenticity, quality, respect for the product,…there, is the identity of the auberge de La Font des Pères.