Written: Juliette Zhu
Interviewer:Jocelyn Chen/Juliette Zhu
Shanghai, being a city which owns the first-ever mainland Chinese edition of the famed Michelin Guide, hosts numerous upscale restaurants. With an increasing number of famous chefs worldwide being attracted to open up their own restaurants in Shanghai in recent years, the city has undoubtedly become a hot spot for fine dining.
Most fine dining western restaurants in Shanghai are located on the Bund or in French Concession. Whether it is the incomparable beauty of the Huangpu River seen alongside the Bund, or the elegance and tranquility of the independent foreign-style houses found in the French Concession, they stand in perfect harmony with the western-style cuisine.
However, by not following normal practice, one French Michelin three-starred restaurant just had its first overseas branch established on the 68th floor of the Shanghai Tower, which is known as the tallest building in Asia. And the particular restaurant we are talking about is Maison Lameloise Shanghai.
The Legendary Michelin Three-Starred Chef Eric Pras
Maison Lameloise Chef Eric Pras
As this July marked the 1st anniversary of opening of Maison Lameloise Shanghai, we had the honor of meeting the French-born chef Eric Pras who arrived at Shanghai for the celebration and did an interview with the legendary three-starred chef.
As early as 2004, Eric Pras earned the prestigious title of Meilleurs Ouvrier De France (M.O.F), the highest distinction given by the French government to the best craftsmen of France.
Contrary to what we had imagined, this MOF chef spoke in a natural and amiable manner, striking us as a very modest person with some timidity.
He related to us his story with Maison Lameloise. The MOF winner joined this century-old Chagny-based Michelin starred restaurant in 2008, working with Jacques Lameloise, the then chef, at whose invitation, he bought in 2009 the very restaurant with the restaurant manager Frederic Lamy.
After taking over the restaurant, Eric，while retaining the original Maison lameloise style，made a bold innovation in dishes, with one of them representing his most iconic dish — the turtle and shrimp duet.
Described by the chef as “Chaud et Froid” (the cold and hot duet), the dish features fresh lobster tartare dipped in mustard cream on one side and crispy rice wrapped crayfish fried in oil on the other.
He told us that this dish is a perfect example of his cooking style, and what makes it special is that it was added to the menu by him despite the fact that Burgundy doesn’t produce lobster itself, and it has been retained since then and is also served in the Shanghai branch.
Back in 2010, Eric was invited to open a branch in Japan, but he just rejected the offer. Having just bought the three-starred French restaurant, he deemed that year not the perfect timing for him to explore new markets in another country with the same level of service.
It was not until 2013 that Eric met his Chinese partner Mr. Zhou Jiahao. They hit it off so well that the pair pooled their efforts to open a Shanghai branch of Maison Lameloise in July 2018.
Eric’s Favorite Mentee Yann, also the Handpicked Shanghai Chef
At a time when Maison Lameloise Shanghai has been in business for a year, we’re curious to hear what the chef has to say about his favorite mentee, Yann Klein, the chef of the Shanghai branch. Eric is generous with his praise for Yann. He thinks Yann has achieved something beyond his reach.
Yann and Eric happen to share the same birthday. Having been with Eric for many years, Yann was deeply trusted by his mentor and carried on the Maison Lameloise traditions. Given Yann’s fluency in English gained from his previous life experience in the United States, he was undoubtedly the best option to maintain a Shanghai branch.
However, things did not go well with the new chef. After his appointment was announced, Yann, eager to conduct the new restaurant’s construction work, only to find that it had to be delayed due to architectural security issues of the Shanghai Tower. For two years, the construction went nowhere. Yann was plagued by constant worries and Eric nevertheless eased his worrying by comforting him, offering suggestion that he should take the chance to steel himself for upcoming challenges.
Finally, in August 2017, Yann and the new restaurant manager Pierre Lafargue started their journey in Shanghai and opened their restaurant after one year’s preparation.
Eric admitted that he was once worried the Shanghai store could not guarantee a normal running. He had visited the new restaurant for four times altogether, and each time he came there he found something new. Not only did the team become increasingly stable, but the dishes were kept at the same level as those in the Chagny-base store. All these results were impossible without the hand-picked chef Yann Klein.
Sunflower Chicken & Black Truffle
Raspberry and Tarragon
Chef Eric’s Expectations for the Shanghai Store
Before the interview ended, we asked Eric a slightly tricky questio, how many Michelin stars does he think Maison Lameloise Shanghai can get?
The chef replied with a smile, saying that he wished to replicate the spirit of Maison Lameloise France in his Chinese branch and adapt the cuisine to tastes of the Chinese clients. He also noted that the job of a chef is just as challenging as other professions. Even if you try very hard, you may not get the result you want. It’s entirely up to the Michelin Guide whether or not you can win stars.
When Jocelyn told the two chefs that the number of times a Michelin inspector visits a restaurant had something to do with the number of stars the restaurant receives, the chef Eric Pras remained unperturbed and told us that the Michelin star does hold a great significance in France and Maison Lameloise carrying three Michelin Stars indeed has attracted many customers. What really matters, however, is whether the clients enjoy the restaurant and want to patronize it again.
Diners’ views have always been highly valued by the Michelin Guide, the chef added, it is a guide not for chefs, but for all diners. He hopes to bring this respect for food to all clients.
Juliette worked in French Channel of China Radio International and has many years’ experiences in media circle. Been the former executive director of Chef Nic and interviewed many top chefs in the world.
Love gourmet and films, wish to share more interesting stories with more people.
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