If you're no Chef Gordon Ramsey but you have a taste for fine cuisine, have no fear. Help is just around the corner at several farmers markets around LA. These fresh produce hot spots are where you'll find Chef Jean Christophe Dupire (a.k.a. "JC") and his wife Meredith Robinson selling their ready-to-heat and eat gourmet French meals under the name Saveurs.
Imagine your dinner guests' surprise when you "whip up" Beef Bourguignon or parmesan risotto with green asparagus, Portobello mushrooms and truffle oil. It's as easy as buying one or several frozen gourmet French meals from Saveurs and then heating them up. Detailed heating instruction--to nuke or not to nuke-- can be found on their website (which also sells the edible products through mail order).
A French Chef's Path to LA
Chef Dupire originally moved to LA to become the sommelier and manager of Lilly's French Café and Bar in Venice. He studied at a traditional culinary school in France, and he likes his food to reflect a mix of his background and the fresh regional flavors of Southern California. "I believe when you have a certain type of climate you get different flavors from the ingredients," says Chef Dupire who has lived in LA for circa a decade. "Living here in LA, I use olive oil, lots of juices, and fruits." Case in point: his raspberry chicken medallions dish.
Beyond mixing LA and French cuisines, Dupire hopes to change the way Angelinos view take-out or so-called fast food. "In LA you can find any kind of cuisine when you want to order in—Thai, Chinese, Mexican food—but you cannot get French. It's very expensive," he says adding that that perception of French food is very wrong. Saveurs hopes to make French food accessible to the busy masses.
French Food Au Naturale
The chicken dishes on Dupire's menu are made with hormone-free tenderloin. All crepes are gluten and wheat free. Saveurs uses organic ingredients like quinoa, ricotta cheese and sundried tomatoes. During warmer seasons, some items like salads are available fresh and unfrozen. And you will not find any preservatives in any of these dishes.
Dupire says that he conservatively recommends one month as the freezer shelf life for the meals. However, he adds, "We have clients who bought things six months ago and everything was perfect." Chef JC is also happy to customize ready-to-heat meals to meet special dietary requirements for those who might be vegetarians or lactose intolerant, for example.
Food Gifts: A Working Mom's Dream
Saveurs ready-to-heat meals are ideally suited to working moms and new mothers, says Robinson. "Even though they're doing a balancing act, there are days when somebody's got ballet practice, the dad is working late," she explains, "If they don't feel like cooking they've got this amazing risotto in the freezer."
Saveurs creates special discount gift certificates for holidays like Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Also, from time to time, customers who are signed up for their emailing list will receive special offers as well.
And of course Saveurs can be a gift for yourself, according to Robinson. "I worked in casting in entertainment and remember those horrible late nights in the office when you would order pizza," she says. "If there's a freezer and a microwave you can take something to the office and afterwards you don't feel as much of the pinch."
French Cooking and the Farmers Market Scene
Chef JC says that he has fostered a lot of regular clients from his visits to the four LA-area farmers markets. He describes the experience as a weekly community reunion. "It becomes a place where we can even exchange recipes and techniques," he explain. Lots of foodies come by his stand to request very specific ingredients as well, like duck fat, lamb stock and French Morel mushrooms. If possible, he happily special orders these off-menu items for them.
"We have mainly a weekend clientele, people who have a little more time to talk to us," he says adding, "When you work with the farmers market you work with the community."
On Saveurs' Menu:
- Medaillons de poulet a la mandarine et marjolaine (mandarin chicken)
- Crepes farcies au canard, champignons et lavande (duck with mushrooms)
- Blanquette de veau (veal)
- Confit de canard (duck)
- Profiteroles (cream puff pastry)
- Tarte au Citron (lemon tart)
Saveurs French Ready-to-Heat Meals Points of Sale:
- French Saveurs website
- Beverly Glen Farmers Market (Beverly Glen Center), Saturdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.