How do you whip up the perfect design menu for five winners of a prestigious competition, Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, held every four years to honor the country’s most talented creative and technical professionals? With a menu comprising signature dishes from five star-studded culinary geniuses, the Strasbourg restaurant Maïence in France’s Alsace region tapped interior and furniture design studio Rinck, Paris, to concoct a recipe of understated sophistication. Not only did the concept have to be the right culinary showcase, it also had to reflect the building’s location next to the cathedral on the city’s oldest downtown street, a prominent location that dates back to the Middle Ages.
“Maïence’s owner, Cédric Moulot, president, CM Collection, had a clear vision to bring together five excellent talents to create an exceptional table combining the cuisine of fish with the vegetable world,” explains, Valentin Goux, vice president, Rinck. As a result, Gilles Goujon, chef at L’Auberge du Vieux-Puits with three Michelin stars, defined the restaurant’s culinary personality, and was joined by baker Sylvain Herviaux; pastry chef Pascal Caffet; cheesemaker Cyrille Lorho; and sommelier Philippe Troussard.
Founded by cabinetmaker Jean Rinck in Alsace in 1841, Rinck’s legacy was apropos for the historic project; however, the concept they created within this historic context was all about modern luxury. With one owner and five chefs to keep happy, there was plenty of guidance. “A designer’s role for five Meilleurs Ouvriers de France is to listen, coordinate and collate,” says Goux. “The designer is certainly not the star! Our interiors were thought of as a way of to enhance the cuisine.”
The light, fresh cuisine marked a departure from much of the rich fare that put this region on the culinary map (its foie gras has been a standout since the 17th century). So, the design needed to convey that message equally well. The team found inspiration in the aquatic world, with shades of opalescent white and burnt brown, ethereal lighting and sinuous forms. “Interior design must give chefs an exceptional tool to demonstrate their work and strengthen clients’ culinary experiences,” says Goux. Case in point: Positioning an oval buffet as the focal point of the dining area so that chefs can prepare fish dishes in full view of guests. Combining functionality with aesthetics, it features a backlit, ivory onyx-like Corian top, a walnut base, velvet-lined drawers and a hammered brass frame.
Despite the clean-lined, contemporary feel of the restaurant, which opened earlier this year, the heritage was not forgotten. Rinck retained the interior volume so the windows and wooden-beam ceiling, integral parts of traditional Alsatian houses, could be respected. “The site’s condition, location, lighting, and the building’s history gave us the starting point to imagine the future design,” says Goux. “The characteristics of an original place are always the primary source of inspiration for design research.” Traditional details such as rough-textured timber appear in smoothed and refined interpretations, providing bon vivants with a tasteful pairing of fresh and well-seasoned indulgences.
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