The French Alps: lovely Italians on one side, but the terrifying Swiss on the other. They’re close – too close for me, a man with a neurotic childhood fear of alpine vistas, yodeling, [and] even cheese with holes in it.Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown, Season 10, Episode 2
What better introduction can there be to a stunningly beautiful destination like the French Alps, than learning about the only truly bizarre traveling fear that our favorite chef has that prevented him from visiting an otherwise charming country?
Anthony Bourdain visited the French Alps – specifically Chamonix and Vallorcine, as well as the Aosta Valley on the Italian side – once during his career, in 2017 while filming Season 10 of Parts Unknown; it was his only visit during any of his shows.
In the French Alps, chefs Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert meet again to continue their playful rivalry of culinary experiences and outdoor excursions. While Tony might have a phobia born of subconscious influences, Eric is from a similar type of region – the Pyrannes – and loves the opportunity to be at home among the mountains again.
Unless you, like Bourdain, have an unwarranted fear of all that makes the mountains amazing, you might want to follow in the ski tracks and snowshoe-steps of Anthony Bourdain in the French Alps. Grab your fondue fork, and let’s escape to the mountains at these places that Tony and Eric visited across the region.
La Table de Plan Joran (Chamonix)
For their first meal, Bourdain and Ripert ski right up to La Table de Plan Joran for a bit of necessary refueling after their day on the slopes. As Tony points out, most American ski resorts have casual American food like burgers and hot dogs – not so in the French Alps.
Their meal is appropriately non-American and non-casual, and consists of pan-seared foie gras, seared and pan-roasted veal loin with wild mushroom sauce and vegetables, and a cheese course comprised of tomme de chevre, tomme de savoie et piment, fromage de chevre, and creme de ren. Somehow, after all that, the two hit the slopes again in the next scene. (Here’s photo evidence of it on Tony’s and Eric’s Instagram accounts.)
La Crèmerie du Glacier (Chamonix)
Next, Eric and Tony continue their voyage of Fromage and visit La Crèmerie du Glacier. This restaurant is located in the popular Les Grande Montets resort area, but has a homier feel that you’d expect from an alpine dining establishment. There, they enjoy Croûte Aux Morilles and Farçon (a fantastic baked loaf of potato, bacon, dried fruit, and cream).
(On the menu, the croûte is “La Super aux morilles à la crème” and Le Farçon traditionnel is also available.)
Hotel Du Buet (Vallorcine)
Though Tony begins to jokingly complain about the amount of cheese they’ve consumed, their next meal continues the queso quest. They head to the Hotel Du Buet, a family-run business in Vallorcine where they dine with Marianne Chamel, part of the latest generation running the hotel, restaurant, and bar.
There, they enjoy two Alp-ine classics: fondue and raclette (served over potatoes). At the table, Marianne also makes them another fondue with egg, bread, sugar, and kirsch (a clear, morello cherry brandy) from the Haute-Savoie region.
Maison Rosette (Aosta Valley)
Finally, Bourdain and Riper cross over onto the Italian side of the French Alps, where Tony seeks something other than cheese to eat. They tuck in at Maison Rosset in the Aosta Valley, where they find the quintessential Italian food to enjoy: pasta.
While there is some cheese involved, their meal primarily includes starches, specifically gnocchi with beetroot fondue, ravioli a Pomodoro (tomato sauce), and creamy polenta with braised beef. It’s a nice change of pace from all the cheese – much as we all love cheese – and a reminder of how much life differs on either side of those towering mountains.
Local Dining Experiences in the Alps
Of course, Tony also has a few non-restaurant dining experiences while exploring the French Alps.
- Bourdain and Ripert enjoy an open-air picnic of patê, croûte, truffles, and farm fresh cheese before milking a cow.
- They also have a chalet lunch with Ripert’s mentor Chef Maurice Guillot, of osetra caviar; asparagus with poached egg, frothed zabaione, and black truffle; and steak au poivre with morel and potatoes.
While these dining experiences might be more difficult to replicate, I did also find one French Alps food tour that you might want to try instead to enjoy some of these types of food experiences in a different way.
Have any questions about how Tony and Eric explored Europe’s most famous mountains? Let me know any questions about following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in the French Alps, in the comments below.