A sense of hospitality: a few well-chosen words, a sincere smile, a bouquet of fresh flowers, a warm and personalised welcome and a little taste of the region offered as an appetizer to greet you, these small yet essential gestures of generosity are recognised by the Welcome Trophy, awarded in partnership with Dom Pérignon. Restaurant Richard et Christopher Coutanceau in La Rochelle (France) receives this award in their sea-side restaurant. The views of the Bay of Biscay serve as the starter, the service does the rest and the cuisine adds the essential finishing touches.
Gourmet cuisine exacts its demands, and deserves its rewards. The Grands Chefs Trophies, presented in association with Taittinger, pays tribute to the elite of the Relais & Châteaux chefs of whom there are 5 who were promoted this year to this prestigious rank: Christophe Bacquié, who has been at Hôtel du Castellet (France) for the last two years and who includes in his retro-modern cuisine the finest ingredients; Antonio Guida of Il Pellicano (Italy) whose contemporary, Mediterranean-inspired inventions break with convention; Peter Tempelhoff of The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel (South Africa) and his ‘deconstructed’ dishes, prepared with style and respect; Gunnar Thompson of Château de Sureau, a passionate promoter of ‘made in California’ local cuisine, and, also in the USA, at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, Joseph Lenn for the dishes he produces from ingredients grown on site, either on the property’s farm or gardens.
Chefs with promise, the ‘rising stars’ of Relais & Châteaux, have an award of their own. The Rising Chef Trophy, supported by the cookware company All-Clad, is awarded this year to Sébastien Sevellec of La Villa in Calvi (France), for the hymns to Corsica that this son of a fisherman has created, having worked at this property for 12 years now, and to Fabrice Vulin at the Château de la Chèvre d’Or (France), who produces Mediterranean dishes of rare sophistication, as pleasing to the eye as to the palate.
Beauty enhances all that is good, whether on the dish or beyond. A carefully chosen linen table cloth, fine silverware, crystal glasses; an attractively-laid table whets the appetite. San Pellegrino and the Art de la Table Trophy pay tribute to this quest for good taste. The Atrio Restaurante & Hotel in Cáceres (Spain), which belongs to Grand Chef Toño Perez, receives this recognition. It is housed in extraordinary buildings which skilfully combine the Gothic with Renaissance and a touch of Colonial style, and boasts a sleek, minimalist dining room with furniture by Mansilla + Tuñón, other masters of modern design.
The Woman of the Year Trophy, given in partnership with Pommery, celebrates one of the many exceptional Relais & Châteaux women. Grand Chef Carme Ruscalleda, owner of Restaurant Sant Pau (Spain) and the creator of an intensely personal, authentic cuisine inspired by surprising references from Catalonia and Japan is recognized this year.
To uphold the best of our heritage and ensure its safe passage into the future requires a skilful blending of tradition with innovation. The Innovation Trophy, awarded in association with Nespresso, recognises this year the Chiu Family of the Villa 32 in Taiwan.
Commitment, too, deserves recognition for those who carry aloft the values of Relais & Châteaux and who fully engage themselves with their property and their guests, and is recognized by the Passion Trophy. This year, Cédric Morel, Owner and Maître de Maison of Château de Feuilles (Seychelles) is presented with this honour awarded in partnership with Hennessy.
It is an art to practise this passion on a daily basis and all with apparent simplicity and ease. This is case in the Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube (Germany), where, in the middle of the Black Forest, Grand Chef Harald Wohlfahrt and his team deliver exceptional cuisine. This property receives the 2012 Savoir-Faire Trophy, awarded in association with Glenmorangie whiskies, in recognition of its staff whose expert discretion is only equalled by their creativity and professionalism.
And in addition to the men and women of Relais & Châteaux, and the services they provide, many features of the properties are also worthy of commendation.
The lounge bar is the place to relax and meet up with others in a refined and comfortable setting. This year, the Lounge Trophy is awarded, together with Grand Marnier, to the Oriental Lounge of the Grand Hôtel du Lac (Switzerland), majestically refurbished by famous interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon.
Environmental protection is a driving force behind Relais & Châteaux. It is only natural that the Association has devoted an award to this, the Environment Trophy, supported by the skincare brand Orlane, and awarded to Il Melograno (Italy) where the Guerra family, working in harmony with nature, seek to protect the beauties of the Adriatic.Finally, the Garden Trophy, awarded in partnership with Rozès port, recognises the most beautiful of the many Relais & Châteaux gardens. The Fearrington House Country Inn & Restaurant (USA) offers exquisite green spaces where you can relax, stroll, seek inspiration; 100% in the open air, near meadows where cattle graze and next to 60 beds of flowers and aromatic herbs and lawns.
Source = Relais & Châteaux