Feast Your Way to Saint-Tropez

Cafe des Beaux-Arts - Chef Thierry Barot bringing a modern and healthful interpretation to classically heavier dishes.
Photography by Café des Beaux-Arts

French chef Thierry Barot touches down in Palm Desert to delight diners with a special dinner menu available January 7–16 at Café des Beaux-Arts on El Paseo.

What do Elton John, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Angela Merkel have in common? They’ve all dined at chef Thierry Barot’s table. And now it’s your turn, as the decorated French chef visits Palm Desert for a 10-day guest spot at Café des Beaux-Arts on El Paseo, January 7–16, 2022.

This unique opportunity to enjoy flavors perfected more than 6,000 miles away in Cogolin, France, sprang to life this past summer. Café des Beaux-Arts owner Didier Bloch escaped the desert heat with his family, as they do every year, vacationing at their second home on the Mediterranean coast. From there, it’s a short, scenic drive to Cogolin, a charming Provençal village perched in the hills above Saint-Tropez.

While shopping at a local market, Bloch happened to run into Barot, the chef and owner of one of his favorite regional restaurants, La Grange des Agapes, which translates to “the barn of feasts.” The atmosphere at Barot’s restaurant is low key, however the food it anything but. He specializes in nouvelle cuisine, a modern and healthful twist on French classics.

“[Barot prepares] a lot of unique tastes, some of them very Provençal; I think it’s interesting,” says Bloch, who first discovered the unassuming restaurant a little more than a decade ago. It’s become a family tradition to dine there a few times every summer. “It’s not a very fancy restaurant, but it’s a very good restaurant. You have this casual [atmosphere], but it’s a level of cooking that is amazing. It’s a very good value, and inventive.”

Of course, Bloch has not been the only one to take notice. The 2019 Michelin Guide recognized La Grange des Agapes with the Bib Gourmand award, bestowed upon restaurants known for good quality and good value.

Barot is no stranger to Michelin cuisine. He trained under some of France’s top Michelin-starred chefs, working at Carré des Feuillants in Paris (which has one star), La Côte Saint-Jacques in Burgundy (three stars), and Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris (three stars), to name just a few. Barot has received several awards personally through various culinary contests and is the author of two cookbooks: Cuisinez Chocolat, about all things chocolate, and Cuisinez Olive, packed with recipes that highlight the Mediterranean’s go-to oil.

Both chocolate and olive oil make an appearance in the dishes Barot will prepare during his guest chef appearance at Café des Beaux-Arts in January. The special evening menu features three appetizer options, three entrées, and three desserts with ingredient pairings that are delightfully unfamiliar — sure to whisk diners away on a culinary adventure to Saint-Tropez. One appetizer features house-smoked duck magret, shaved and served atop a rich artichoke velouté with truffle foam. Entrées include an elevated take on a rustic French tartine — roasted calamari piled on a slice of country bread with pickled fennel, fresh goat cheese, honey, and balsamic reduction. Chocolate mousse with caramelized pear Napoléon and Chantilly cream is an easy choice for a sweet finish. Of course, all nine items on Barot’s menu are tantalizing, so the final decision may prove tough.

Dishes are available à la carte or as a $69.50 three-course menu; the standard Café des Beaux-Arts dinner menu will also be available. Advance reservations are absolutely recommended.

“We are very happy to do these things, because it’s always interesting to do something new,” Bloch says. After 28 years on El Paseo, it’s exciting for the restaurateur to treat his loyal clientele to fresh flavors, and to share a little bit of Southern France with his community here on El Paseo.