9 Mar 2011

Patrick Pagès, RIP

I do not much like obituaries, and this is not one since I am not competent for such an exercise as I did not know this man well. In fact we only met a couple of times. But few people have ever impressed me with their enthusiasm and their generosity as much as Patrick Pagès did, so here goes for a few words, which may only mean something to those who knew him, but which, I can only hope, may also strike a few more hearts here and there. 




Patrick obtained, and held for ten years, a Michelin star in his family auberge in one of France's most remote rural areas, in that austere and unspoilt Cevennes region which has been a refuge for persecuted Protestants way back during France's bloody religious wars of the 17th century. Patrick Pagès also presided the region's sommelier association for some time, as he was, as well as being a fine chef, a true wine lover and connoisseur. His auberge, called Chanteloiseau, was known to any who ventured past its doors as one of the most fantastic places in the world for an ideal fusion of wine with food, all in a true spirit of sharing and warmth, because he loved all these ingredients equally.

Yet, being situated far away from any major town (it took a couple of hours to get to his place from Montpellier, and along windy roads which made getting back quite hasardous given the quality of his wine list!), this wonderfully warm and welcoming auberge was never, sadly, a viable economic proposition. So Patrick had to attempt all kinds of other enterprises in order to survive. Paris and Moscow were amongst them. I do not know all of the details, and it doesn't really matter now. He has just lost his final battle, against the dreaded crab. 

What I will remember, and for all my life, is his extraordinary generosity and will to share the treasures of his region, his heritage, his knowledge, and all that he had to give. And that was a lot! I was once party to the organisation of a press trip, about 20 years ago, to the auberge called Chanteloiseau (what a beautiful name: it signifies "the song of a bird"). Not content with offering us the most fabulous aperitif and lunch that I think I have ever seen, he also confided me with the key to his (spectacular) cellar for that meal. I will never forget that day, and his spirit of sharing and confidence that, in all likelihood, brought on him many financial difficulties.

His passing is a loss for all who knew him, and we can only hope that many more will take up the baton of that level of generosity and joy in life.

Sing bird, sing....