An Inside Look at the Trip to France That Inspired Maude’s Newest Menu

Chef Curtis Stone and his crew even visited an artisanal snail farmer

When Curtis Stone’s Maude closed for a few weeks in January, it was a sign of big changes to come. Not only would his fine-dining restaurant be getting a redesign, it would also be flipping its monthly, ingredient-centric tasting menu for the first time since it opened in 2014. Now, diners will find quarterly menus that pay homage to different wine regions throughout the world. In search of inspiration, the Maude team embarked on a weeklong gastronomic journey—one of many to come—to France’s Burgundy region.

“It’s a commitment [to plan four of these trips every year], but it’s a good excuse to be on the other side of the world drinking wine,” Stone says.

A wine tasting in Burgundy

Mikael Vojinovic

The Australian celebrity chef, along with executive chef Justin Hilbert, traveled in a group of seven, which included other members of their wine and culinary team (as well as Stone’s wife, actress Lindsay Price). They used the wine-centric town of Beaune as their home base, and drove out each day to visit various craftsmen, from an artisanal snail farmer, to a Dijon mustard maker, and a slew of vintners. Hilbert then created a $125, Burgundy-inspired tasting menu that’s available at the restaurant through the end of June. This is the new tradition’s second iteration. Last November, a smaller group embarked on a research trip to Rioja, Spain, which was the basis for the restaurant’s inaugural quarterly menu.

For both Stone and Hilbert, one of their most memorable experiences in Burgundy was spending time with organic snail farmer, Sylvain Peyrot. “We [formed] such a great relationship with Sylvain, who’s one of the last authentic Burgundian snail producers,” Stone says. “He has a real perspective on what snails should eat, when they should be processed, and how they should be cooked and removed from their shells.”

Snail farmer Sylvain Peyrot, second from left

Mikael Vojinovic

When they were driving to find Peyrot’s farm, they got lost for a bit and nearly ran out of gas. “They were just as excited to show us the farm as we were to see it, and the graciousness of his family was unsurpassed,” Hilbert says. “They even loaned us gas to get back to the hotel. I’m so happy we were able to get the snails he produces back here to L.A.”

Hilbert is interpreting Peyrot’s snails a few different ways, from serving them classically as escargot in herbed garlic butter, to doing more playful renditions. “[Peyrot] served us an interesting bisque made with crayfish and snails, which we all loved,” Hilbert says. “I thought it’d be nice to recreate the dish with spot prawns, which just came into season.”

They were also influenced by the renowned Les Halles Market in Dijon, which is filled with stalls operated by bakers, butchers, cheesemongers, and even a man who sells nearly a dozen varieties of chicken, which Stone says is a far cry from the U.S.’s homogenized grocery stores. “For me, being in France is so special,” Stone says. “Everywhere you go, there’s a specialization in everything.

Stone and Hilbert at Les Halles

Mikael Vojinovic

Hilbert says over the course of their trip, they came to understand that for Burgundians, terroir is “immeasurably important,” and not just in regard to wine. “Connection to the land is at the core of the spirit of Burgundy and a part of daily life,” Hilbert says. “This was a beautiful thing to see.”

At the markets, they were excited to see a thriving tradition of old-school butchers creating beautiful terrines, rillettes, and pâtés. At Maude, that’s been translated to a rabbit charcuterie course, served as an assiette of seven different preparations of the game, with Dijon mustard as “the backdrop of flavor throughout,” Hilbert says.

Instead of concluding the meal with a plate of desserts like they’ve done in the past, they’re offering a kind of buffet of cheeses and sweets in the wine loft, where guests can pick and choose what galettes or mignardises they want to sample.

As for the wine pairings, head sommelier, Andrey Tolmachyov, created three menus: Village for $125, Premier Cru for $250, and Grand Cru for $500. Stone says they also encourage wine collectors to bring in their own bottles to pair with their regional food, and the best part is that there’s no corkage fee.

Maude in Beverly Hills

Ray Kachatorian

The way Maude used to operate was to release a month’s worth of reservations at once, and it was often difficult to snag a table. But now, they’ve opened up three-months-worth of tables at a time, making it easier to get a seat. There are still reservations open, even for this week.

The team’s still figuring out the next trips, but Stone says he wants to take his crew to his home country of Australia, and that they’ll most likely be traveling domestically as well, because “there’s so much fantastic stuff in America.”

Maude, 212 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills

RELATED: Curtis Stone on Living in L.A., Cooking for His Wife, and His New Restaurant Maude

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