The new chef of Elsa, the 100% certified organic and wild-caught fish restaurant at the Monte-Carlo Beach, offers us a summer experience bursting with flavours.
Mélanie Serre’s eyes sparkle as she flashes a beaming smile. At 36 she has already had a brilliant career, starting a new chapter on 11 May when she joined the kitchen of Elsa restaurant as head chef. It’s a great story, but it could have been written differently. “My dream as a young girl – to become a veterinarian – originally led me to take a scientific baccalaureate,” she tells us. But at weekends, her uncle, who was a caterer, hired her to wait tables at events, weddings in particular. “I liked the atmosphere, the happy people… So I decided to study for a degree in management, specialising in the hotel and catering industry.” Whilst at the Vatel hotel management school in Lyon, she did an internship with the caterer Potel et Chabot, whose chef inspired her to learn the trade. “I wanted to know all about the world of professional kitchens, the culinary terms, and how they were organised, without necessarily cooking. But then in the end…”. More positive encounters followed, all of which contributed to her love of the job. Joël Robuchon handed her the reins at the Atelier Étoile in Paris, and Christophe Cussac trained her for four years at the Hôtel Métropole in Monte-Carlo. Next came Olivier Bardoux in Megève, who showed her the most sophisticated cooking techniques.
Eating for health and pleasure…
After opening her own restaurant, Le Louis Vins, in Paris in 2020, and winning the Jeune Talent Gault & Millau prize, the young chef from Ardèche in southeastern France affirmed her style: “A mixture of delicious food and elegance. Everything is done to a very high standard, in the kitchen and on the plate, with a lot of technique and a lot of generosity. I season liberally, so that the dishes have character, and so that each ingredient has a distinct taste.” Her vision of gastronomy is emphatically modern, with a focus on simplicity and the power of taste.
Now she is showcasing her signature culinary style at Elsa restaurant, using 100% organic ingredients and working in close collaboration with exceptional local producers. “It’s a big challenge for me. The idea of organic appeals to me and has really given me food for thought. In Paris, it is much more difficult to cook organically, so this new role is a real opportunity for me. And above all, it will give me the chance to meet people. A good conversation with a producer tells you everything. How they work, their way of seeing things, their love for the land or their animals – it’s all crucial. And the fact that they have this authenticity is still the best way for us to reproduce it in our dishes.”
So what will Elsa’s menu look like this summer? “Initially the focus will be on seafood. I’m inspired by soups and sauces, well reduced and fish-based. And vegetables, of course: every vegetable can be prepared in different ways, raw or cooked, smoked or grilled.” The organic delicacies she will be serving up include refreshing carrots with cumin, wilted leaf pesto, chilled orange and ginger juice, audacious cannelloni of cockles and clams, velouté of lettuce and sheep’s cheese with iodized Vermouth jus. All the dishes are faithful to the spirit of Elsa restaurant, which has been Green Globe certified since 2014, and is committed to a sustainable approach, “with respect and gratitude for what the earth and sea gives us.”
Avenue Princesse Grace
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