In the final episode of Chef’s Table: France, a special season of Netflix’s hit culinary documentary series, David Gelb and his crew profile Michel Troisgros, the chef and owner of the iconic Maison Troisgros. The restaurant, located in the French countryside town of Roanne, has long held three Michelin stars.
Troisgros has taken a family legacy and culinary tradition, and he’s pushed it into the future. His grandfather, Jean-Baptiste, opened La Maison Troisgros in 1930, before passing it onto Michel’s father, Pierre, and uncle, Jean, in the 1950s. For years, salmon and sorrel, a dish invented by Pierre and Jean and inspired by Basque country, was the embodiment of a bygone era of French cuisine. Michel and his siblings spent a lot of time in the restaurant as children. “I remember the smells and sounds of the kitchen,” he says. “I could hear the intensity, the stress, the emotion that would burst forth. I was sure I wanted to devote my life to cooking. It seduced me.”
Following the sudden death of Uncle Jean in 1983, Michel joined Maison Troisgros to help his father. Thirteen years later, he took over for himself with grand ideas of doing things his own way and revolutionizing the restaurant. Salmon and sorrel was off the menu. The locals, as is often the case when someone upends tradition, were not happy. “Customers were not ready for the change.” Michel remarks. “I had to be proactive. I had to dive into the deep and see what I had in me.”
The locals eventually got over it. Michel Troisgros was taking inspiration from art and food around the world — a painting from Italy, sushi from Japan — and creating his own style of French cuisine. His restaurant became renowned for constantly evolving, never resting on the laurels of old dishes and accolades. Shortly after implementing the changes, the dining rooms started drawing new customers. “The moment I understood that this movement towards the future allows survival, I didn’t hesitate for a second.” Michel says. “It was all about creation and change. That was my salvation.”
After nearly nine decades, Maison Troisgros moved into a new location a few years ago, and now César Troisgros, Michel’s son, works in the kitchen, waiting to take over and make his own imprint on the family business, someday in the not-too-distant future. In 2013, salmon and sorrel returned to the Maison Troisgros menu.
“This establishment is distinguished by the way it constantly renews itself,” Michel Troisgros says toward the end of his Chef’s Table: France episode. “Salmon and sorrel is the emblem of this renewal. It serves as a link between our past and the future. I don’t have the shadow of the past hanging over me anymore.”