28-year-old pastry chef Nicolas Innocenti, joins a young and talented team at the Cures Marines hotel in Trouville-sur-Mer, Calvados, after a stellar career on the luxury hotel scene in Paris. Built in 1903 overlooking the sea, the building has been returned to its former glory, recapturing the ambiance of the early seaside resorts.
Les Cures Marines was a high-society destination, with guests coming from far and wide to take in “The Waves”. It has now been reinvented under the aegis and expertise of MGallery and Thalassa Sea & Spa. Having closed in 1999, the historical monument has since undergone a complete programme of building and renovation works, which began in 2015. The revived establishment is now home to fine-dining restaurant Le 1912, designed by interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel to recapture the wild atmosphere of the early 20th century soirées, treating guests to an experience untouched by time.
It is here that the elegance of the Belle Époque gets a contemporary twist as pastry chef Nicolas Innocenti serves his clean-flavoured, barely sweetened desserts before the vast expanse of the ocean.
After serving an apprenticeship at the Carlton and a début posting at Meurice, the budding Cannes-born chef joined Le Grand Véfour alongside Guy Martin. He then went on to help L’Escargot 1903 in Puteaux obtain its first Michelin star, with Paolo Boscaro, before joining the prestigious Georges V hotel. The enforced break dictated by lockdown is what encouraged his decision to leave this role for new horizons. “I have had a lot of time to reflect during these peculiar times. I didn’t know whether I wanted to start my own business or apply for a new chef role in a hotel where I could showcase my knowledge and learn how to manage a team”, admits the pastry chef. And so, he made the decision to leave Paris — his comfort zone — to join the major revival project at the Cures Marines, a crossroads where history and gastronomy intersect.
Deeply influenced by the teachings of Maxime Frédéric and Michaël Bartocetti, who taught him the basics of pastry making, his imagination was fired by childhood memories and, within them, he found his ambition as a chef: “To stir clients’ emotions, to conjure up moments from their childhood.”
“My desserts are not overly sweet. I use a lot of natural sugars, but I avoid refined sugars and prefer to showcase clean, powerful flavours. A chocolate tart should taste of chocolate. A lemon one should taste entirely of lemon, with all its bitterness and acidity.”
Executive chef at the Cures Marines, James Chauchat-Rozier, head chef from l’Ephemer, Gaël Derrien and Nicolas Innocentiform a 3-man band of young talent, and all herald from the shores of the Mediterranean. The Côte d’Azurian trio have set themselves the challenge this summer of brightening up these Norman tables, drenching regional products in Mediterranean flavours whilst ensuring to maintain a range of tasty and healthy options. “We want to use as many local products as possible, explains Nicolas Innocenti. There are farms local to the hotel that produce some exceptional products. Coming from the Mediterranean, we want to cook these local products in a Mediterranean style, using fruit, spices and oils. At Le 1912, for example, with chocolatier Michel Cuizel, we serve a selection of chocolate petits fours accompanied by an Espelette pepper jelly or rosemary flavoured apricots with a sheep’s milk yogurt.”
“The product and nothing but the product, in all its forms, in all its glory”, that is the philosophy championed by James Chauchat-Rozier and which has developed within the cooking and desserts of the three chefs at the Cures Marines, as further evidenced by the names of Nicolas Innocenti’s desserts: « La Noisette », « La Framboise », « L’Abricot », « Le Chocolat » (“The Hazelnut”, “The Raspberry”, “The Apricot, “The Chocolate”). The pastry chef will continue to seek out the very best products with which to expertly, stylishly create his desserts that so brilliantly round off a dinner at Le 1912, overlooking one of the most beautiful views in Trouville.