Exclusive Chefs’ Academy Visit Rungis

Exclusive Hotels’ executive chef Andy MacKenzie and Wellocks’ Jonny Baron recently took a group of young chefs from the hotel group to explore Paris’ famous Rungis market.

We have been working alongside the students of the Exclusive Chefs’ Academy for the past two years. The students come up to Wellocks HQ in Lancashire each year to spend time in the warehouse and the pasta production room and to visit some local producers.

This year, a trip to Rungis Market was organised by our sales director Jonny Baron an ex chef who has been working with the academy since its inception, along with the academy mentor Andy Mackenzie to see first-hand the exceptional produce available.

The Exclusive Chefs’ Academy is a two year programme set up for groups of young and talented chefs working in the various hotels under the Exclusive Hotels umbrella. It allows students to gain Michelin star experience which will give them a great platform for the future.

We met at St Pancras and headed to Paris via the Eurostar arriving in the spring sunshine, a quick pit stop for lunch and then a 50 minute journey out of Paris centre and on to Rungis.

The complex at Rungis is huge and everybody agreed they hadn’t imagined it to be quite so big. It is hard not to be overwhelmed by such a vast area dedicated to wholesale of varying produce.

In the evening we headed to dinner to the local fish restaurant (A La Marée) which serves produce straight out of the market, then the alarms were set ready for a 4am start.

The fish market was the first stop on our Rungis hike – the chefs were amazed by the varieties available, live carp and pike in tanks, brill and turbot were plentiful and for Dover soles and red mullet freshness was the key. Next we headed to the dairy hall, many of the cheeses here are stocked by Wellocks along with French butters and yoghurts, and artisan cheeses from every corner of France.

Our first glimpse of the fresh produce hall was of perfectly lined gariguettes and merinda tomatoes, the group were inspired by the perfection on display. Walking through each hall there is surprise after surprise, some favourite’s from Wellocks are the Philibon passion fruit, Keo mango and Holly Fruit berries and of course green and white asparagus.

Luckily we had by now worked up an appetite and so we headed to Maison Masse, the home of foie gras. Here we had a tasting and demonstration by owner Michael which involved us tasting pan-fried frozen pavé, fresh paper-wrapped lobes and terrines. A very welcome interlude.

As daylight started to appear, we headed over to Delas to see the vast array of meats, charcuterie, dry goods and patisserie products. Next stop was the poultry hall. It was a great insight into the famous French poultry and meats, poulet bresse, coquille, poussin, squab pigeons, jumbo quail, rabbit and Pyrenean lamb.

More fruit and veg followed, well-known apples and pears alongside rarer varieties like the Ariane Les Naturianes as well as a distinctive berry display. Our route march continued over to our mushroom supplier Champiland to meet Javor, who directly sources and supplies us with the best mushrooms. Seeing a Wellocks’ order being picked and built ready for delivery the following day was classed as perfect timing.

Eight hours later, our minds were blown, feet tired and hearts captured and the chef’s knowledge of fresh produce was truly racing. It was now only lunch time in Rungis but our day was very much coming to an end. On our drive back to Paris we took in the sights of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Champs-Elysées before heading to the Eurostar and home.

This was another memorable trip spent with Andy and the Exclusive Chefs’ Academy and I for one completely enjoyed it.