In the South of France, where the French and Italian borders meet at the sea, there is a town called Menton. It was here that in 2006 the Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco opened a restaurant named Mirazur.
Last year, Mirazur was the number one best restaurant on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. And earlier this year for New York Fashion Week, it hosted a pop-up at Spring Place, serving signature dishes to fashion patrons from around the globe. In addition to Mirazur, Colagreco runs Florie’s at the Four Seasons Restaurant Palm Beach and is opening Côte Restaurant in Capella Hotel Bangkok later this year.
All of these accolades are an honor for Colagreco, but with his humble nature, he is happiest in the backyard garden at the restaurant—planting seeds and watching produce grow. Whitewall spoke with Colagreco to hear about how his culinary journey led him to Menton, and why Mirazur is focusing on the future of food.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your culinary background leading up to Mirazur.
MAURO COLAGRECO: I always dreamed about working with the biggest French chefs. In 2000, I arrived in France for my first job in Burgundy at Bernard Loiseau Restaurant (three Michelin stars). I stayed there until his death and then left for Paris to work in L’Arpège—another three- starred restaurant. At the time, [Alain] Passard was vegetarian and was revolutionizing the French cuisine. I was there for two years and left as Chef de Cuisine. Then I went to the Plaza Athénée (three stars) for one year. And for the last year, I was at the Grand Véfour (three stars, again). Then, in 2006, I decided to open Mirazur.
WW: Tell us a bit about Mirazur’s unique beginning, and how its lush surroundings impact the menu.
MC: For me, Mirazur was destiny. I was looking for a restaurant in Spain and some friends asked if I knew of Menton because they knew an incredible location for a restaurant there. I had never been to Menton before, but I decided to look at this restaurant and talk to the owner, as it was closed for three years. I fell in love at first sight! The place was beautiful—a sea view, greenery, and so much energy. That day, I decided to open my own restaurant in Menton.
At Mirazur, we desire to share and give our guests the unique experience of the beauty of a region; of a landscape between sea, gardens, and mountains through the sublimation of products and the freedom of creation. Respect and admiration for the biodiversity inspires us as much as the atmosphere. This area is so special—for its light and colors, and the Mediterranean basin.
We work with a personalized “carte blanche” menu that follows the rhythm of nature. For us, there is no four seasons, but 365 days to create in accordance with what nature gives to us! It’s a challenge, but also very motivating to create from what arrives at the restaurant every day. That’s the DNA of Mirazur—dishes that play on the beauty and power of small nuances, like a beautiful musical composition.
WW: Tell us a bit about your dedication to sustainability—from product consumption to zero-plastic policies.
MC: We have always worked with sustainability. The first thing in my kitchen was no waste. We use the whole product to create dishes, sauces, broths, and more. When we cannot use the product anymore, we put it in the compost for the garden, and give it back to the earth. Cultivating our organic garden with permaculture is also important for us, to respect nature and to create biodiversity. Respecting nature is respecting our clients—their body and soul.
Another thing that we started three years ago was the Plastic Free Certification. No more single-use plastic in Mirazur’s kitchen! It’s been one of my favorite things to arrive at this point.
WW: Tell us a bit about working locally with your producers to achieve a certain menu, and a certain plastic-free approach, too.
MC: When I arrived in Menton, I had recipes that I had created in Paris especially for the opening of Mirazur. But from the moment I realized the products from the surroundings were different, I knew I had to make a clean sweep and start from scratch. I started looking for producers— tasting, smelling, exploring . . .
I also asked my suppliers to follow me into a plastic-free approach, and I was happy to see they agreed and did what was necessary to stop it.
WW: In the backyard of the restaurant, you mentioned you have an orno de barro—a traditional clay oven that’s common in country homes in Argentina and Uruguay—that was handmade in three weeks with your friend Federico Desseno and your son, Valentin. Today, you’re also opening a bakery to sell bread made this way. Tell us about this.
MC: At Mirazur, the menu starts with the “sharing bread” to taste with our olive oils. The bread was inspired by childhood memories; the bread that my grandmother Amalia made. It symbolizes this taste for sharing, memories of my family, and something simple and universal for lots of cultures. I started to deepen my research on the quality of flour and old wheats, and little by little, the idea of expanding our possibilities of experimentation in this field has grown. So, we bought a bakery with the oldest wood oven in our city and embarked on this great adventure.
WW: How are you spending time in isolation amid COVID-19? What will it be like when Mirazur reopens after being closed for three months?
MC: I’m lucky to have the Mirazur vegetable garden at home, so I’m taking advantage of this time to take care of the land. I’m investing myself more and more in permaculture and organic farming, and I’m preparing the garden for the reopening of Mirazur. I am convinced that the way we produce today is exhausting the earth and making it sick. We must be aware of this and start on a healthier basis with local, organic, and seasonal production.
Other than that, I found it improbable to stay at home while caregivers are fighting this disease and so many people need help. So, with a small part of my team, we decided to cook for the caregivers and homeless. With the help of the city and our suppliers, we managed to make about 70 meals twice a week.