Guy Martin shares what it’s like cooking for the rich and famous in Paris’ oldest restaurant.

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Guy Martin shares what it’s like cooking for the rich and famous in Paris’ oldest restaurant.

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Growing up near the mountains, Guy Martin’s initial dream was to be an alpinist.

As chef-owner of two-Michelinstar Le Grand Vefour, the oldest restaurant in Paris, Guy Martin is no stranger to cooking for high-profile types. The restaurant’s sumptuous yellow and gold interiors have housed guests like French writers Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo. It was also here that renowned French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte proposed to his wife.

Martin was in town recently to helm the kitchen of Art at Curate, a collaboration among Resorts World Sentosa, Michelin Guide Singapore and wine authority Robert Parker Wine Advocate, where visiting chefs from Michelin-star restaurants around the world showcase their culinary creations.

He says: “Some of the most exciting and memorable events I’ve experienced include preparing a meal for 800 people in a desert, a celebratory dinner for Formula 1 world champion Alain Prost, and preparing oxtail parmentier for (former French) president Giscard d’Estaing.” Martin joined Le Grand Vefour in 1991 after spending 10 years working in esteemed Relais and Chateaux institutions Chateau de Coudree and Chateau de Divonne.

He bought over the restaurant in 2011.

Now 59 years old, Martin is used to entertaining guests with particular demands, and has been known to fly in uncommon ingredients like Sarrade foie gras, turbot from Brittany, Bayonne ham and Kaviari caviar for special dinners. Bayonne ham, for instance, is particularly difficult to get. The meat has to be from one of only eight breeds of pigs raised under strict regulations (location where the animals are reared is closely monitored), and the meat must be cured for a minimum of seven months before it can be sold.

“To me, all my customers are VIPs,” he says. “Even if I cook for a king, a president, or a rock star, the food I cook will be the same as that for the rest of my guests.”

Interestingly, Martin never dreamt of being a chef. Growing up among the mountains in the Savoie region, just 20 minutes from Mont Blanc in the French Alps, the French chef grew up eating fresh produce plucked from the soils or drinking fresh spring water. Fish, for instance, or mushrooms and herbs, would often appear on the dining table, just hours after being caught or harvested.

His delight in natural ingredients has led him to use only organic produce in his restaurant.

“I actually grew up wanting to be an alpinist – a mountain guide or ski instructor – and even attended a school for mountaineers,” says Martin. “I became a chef eventually, but I’ve always loved the mountains. Even now, I often go to the mountain and the sea to visit the people who produce the ingredients for me.”