Albert Nahmias

If you have been an assiduous reader of my newsletters then you have frequently encountered the name Albert Nahmias, my Paris culinary ‘rabbi.” In the 1001 Arabian Nights secret doors open when one says Abra cadabra but in Paris the doors of some of the world’s finest restaurants open to the likes of me,when I say: “Albert Nahmias.”

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If you have been an assiduous reader of my newsletters then you have frequently encountered the name Albert Nahmias, my Paris culinary ‘rabbi.” In the 1001 Arabian Nights secret doors open when one says Abra cadabra but in Paris the doors of some of the world’s finest restaurants open to the likes of me,when I say: “Albert Nahmias.”

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The story of  this Marrakech-born consultant and friend to the finest chefs in France is told in his engaging and anecdotal memoir: Petite Histoires de Grand Chefs, that serves as a history of French cuisine starting in the 1970s.

He was on the “beaches” (when the paving stones were ripped up they revealed sand) of Paris during the 1968 student revolt and after a short career as a sociologist and researcher at the University of Nanterre, he realized that academia did not provide the life he desired so  he opened the Restaurant l’Olympe, with his then wife Dominique Versani aka Olympe. During its  20-year continuing success it was host to kings, actors, singers and celebrities.

Why a restaurant? Olympe prepared wonderful meals for their friends and faculty colleagues who always said:” You should open a restaurant.” With that as encouragement and no money they begin looking for an appropriate space in their Montparnasse neighborhood.

At this point fate or luck intervened for the first time. They found a perfect space in an imperfect part of Montparnasse that at the time was a beauty salon. Perhaps intrigued by their story or just a good guy, the owner said: Don’t worry about rent. You can pay me when you can."

 

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The second piece of good luck was Gael Greene of the the influential New York Magazine founded and run by Clay Felker, formerly of the defunct New York Herald Tribune,considered to be the most literary of New York’s dailies and designed by the Milton Glaser, creator of the I Love (heart) New York image that spread around the world. Her review catapulted this little restaurant to top of mind for ‘foodies” from the United States including director Francis Ford Coppola who has frequently hosted Albert in San Francisco and the Napa Valley.

Portrait Paris France "French Bistro Restaurant" "Casa Olympe" Female Chef "Dominique VERSINI"

Excerpted from Gael Greene’s review

They call her the crayfish Queen. While most chefs today mellow their wine sauces with long, slow cooking, Dominique Nahmias sweetens hers quickly with artichoke. Mme. Nahmias doesn’t like to cook anything that takes more than fifteen minutes. She is untrained, an intuitive cook, a housewife friends pestered to turn professional. Quickly discovered by alert becs fins, she is the only woman in Paris to rate three red toques from Gault-Millau. She offers crayfish with white feet or red…three ways, tends stove in high heels, slips into the small Art Deco dining room of Restaurant d’Olympe — a funeral parlor of shiny black walls and red velvet — to graze cheeks with her devotees, serious foodies, and, from ten on, tout Paris, the men as flashily beautiful as their beautiful women.

Read the complete review

Read Gael’s Blog

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Humble and generous, Albert has been a friend and counselor to young chefs during the run at Olympe and today, as he continues his career as critic and consultant to the world of gastronomy.Perhaps no one has been more appreciative and grateful than Alain Ducasse whom Albert championed when most snobby Paris critics wrote him off as a provincial.

To his great credit, Ducasse, a true stand-up guy, as we say in Brooklyn, has never forgotten and continues to publicly acknowledge Albert’s contribution to his success as he did at the Plaza Athenée for the launch of Petites Histoires de Grands Chefs.

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Little stories often reveal great truths. In his affectionate stream of anecdotes Albert Nahmias delivers the key to understanding the changes in French cuisine since the 1970s.

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In recounting his memories, Albert Nahmias brings his personal contribution to today’s cuisine. That of a witness and an actor. Transmitting the memory of the kitchen is a great way to build its future.-Alain Ducasse

The book (in French) can be found in bookstores throughout France and on line.

Video interview in French

 

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Bistros

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No one should have a bad meal in Paris! Whether a 2-star restaurant or a local bistro there should always be an excellent rapport qualité prix– relationship between price and quality. At my favorites you will be treated as a regular and have a satisfying experience. Just tell them  “Terrance sent you.”

Events

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Regularly scheduled literary salons with guest writers, private dinners, restaurant openings, wine tastings,market visits and cooking classes attract a discerning, sophisticated crowd who love to have a good time while they learn. Our cadre of Paris–based colleagues happily share their passion for this magical city.