Alessandra Montagne: the new generation of foreign-born chefs
- Born Brazilian, French cook, Asian flavours
- Locavore, waste-free approach of cooking
- Parisian bistronomy restaurant Nosso
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Alessandra Montagne is a locavore with a big heart, who swears only by well-sourced products. Born in Rio de Janeiro, she was raised by her farm grandparents, in a small village without water or electricity. It was there, in autarky, that she learned the basics of cooking. Arrived in Paris, she began her career as an executive assistant in the medical field and then moved to professional cooking at the Jean Drouant hotel school where she obtained her CAP in cooking and pastry. It then passes, among others, through the kitchens of William Ledeuil, Adeline Grattard and the pastries of Benoît Castel and the Grande Epicerie.
In 2012, she opened the Tempero restaurant in the 13th arrondissement. Her unusual personality and her waste-free cuisine made his reputation in the Parisian gastronomic landscape.
2020 has marked the opening of NOSSO, her new table, very close to the MK2 Library. As a great humanist, Alessandra Montagne is in love with products and others as emphasized by NOSSO (“our” in Portuguese). She was able to unite around her a team of faithful: cooks like Juan Solano, her second in charge, who became her partner; former Tempero servers such as Rangel Amorin, who has been converted into a cabinetmaker who designed the restaurant’s woodwork; artists like Catherine Remi the ceramicist who imagined the lights …
Alessandra Montagne’s unlikely combination of French, Brazilian, and Asian cuisines is part of the city’s multilingual conversation. Tempero has the added advantage of offering a three-course meal for a very reasonable price, 21 euros, showing the influence of a chef who grew up believing economy was a virtue and saw poverty all around her. “I wanted to offer an inexpensive menu so everyone could come to eat here,” Montagne explains.
She uses her childhood memories of smells and tastes to inform her cooking in France: ginger, lemon, passion fruit, sweet potato, banana leaves, green bananas. Then she adds in a dash of Asian inspiration, and French technique, to foment her unique style.
Alessandra Montagne did not originally come to Paris to be a chef. She meant to study French at the Sorbonne for one year only, but Paris and its sights, smells, and tastes captivated her. “Everything was new,” she says with animation. “I was euphoric with joy.” (Another attraction of Paris, she admits, was meeting her Vietnamese-French husband, Olivier; they were recently divorced but remain on good terms.)
A primary-school teacher in her native Brazil, and an executive assistant once she came to Paris, Montagne often entertained her new Parisian friends, cooking classic French dishes, such as boeuf bourguignon and chicken Marengo, that she taught herself by reading cookbooks or researching online. “All my friends told me, ‘Alessandra, what you made is delicious. Why don’t you become a chef?’” In 2008, at the age of 30, she decided to enter cooking school.
As part of her training, she had an influential apprenticeship with Michelin-starred chef William Ledeuil at Ze Kitchen Galerie, known for its inventive incorporation of Asian flavors.
Ledeuil remembers Montagne as an enthusiastic, warmhearted young woman “who absolutely wanted to learn something.” Asked whether he has ever been to Tempero, he says with a laugh, “Every time I try to go, it’s booked.”
Alessandra Montagne continued her training with a short stint at Yam’Tcha, the acclaimed French-Chinese restaurant on the rue Saint-Honoré presided over by Adeline Grattard. She sought out Grattard not only to learn culinary techniques but specifically because she was a woman. Both chefs had young daughters at the time. Grattard’s daughter was two, while Montagne’s was four.
Adding to the rich culinary conversation in Paris, by showing how French cuisine can be revitalized with new inspirations, is her way of paying it forward. When asked about the future of French cooking, Montagne says, “It’s always changing—and changing in the right direction.”
Photo crédits : Anne-Claire Heraud