I was lucky enough to pull the long straw in accompanying a select group of consumer press and foodie influencers on a whistle stop tour to Montpellier, on behalf of our client, Le Pain Quotidien to stay with Founder, Alain Coumont in his stunning countryside abode. The main aim of the trip was to go back to basics with what makes LPQ so unique and special, to offer a deeper understanding of the brand, why it was started over 25 years ago and how it remains still so relevant today.
On arrival, a ‘light lunch’ was prepared, courtesy of our host. Already busy at work, Alain has set up camp inside a restored street-food van, pushing gloriously abundant pizzas into a wood fired stove. There are cheeses, home produced wine, tomatoes from the garden and slabs of einkorn bread to get us in the mood.
We segue from lunch, via the sprawling vineyard in the hills around Alain’s home, picking tiny sweet grapes destined for biodynamic wine – which was later sampled in a wine tasting.
Alain’s garden and greenhouse was filled with rows of every kind of green leafy vegetable and fresh fruit. What a fantastic place for the press to get inspired about the menu, its seasonality and understanding of provenance.
We arrive at dinner, the French side of late, into Alain’s dreamy farmhouse style kitchen and dining room which take up the whole ground floor of what was originally a silk factory that adjoins the main house. We may well have been dining in one of LPQ’s restaurants, as we settle in around the proudly placed large wooden communal table – which have become synonymous with the brand, seen in every restaurant worldwide. The work surfaces are a riot of colour – ripe tomatoes, aubergines, figs, bunches of herbs. Alain is stationed at the stove, grilling wafer thin slices of courgette and wrapping them around mini koftas of lamb, spiked with Moroccan spices. The next moment he’s toasting hunks of bread, the next – frying the figs with sprigs of lavender and local honey. He literally never stopped!
From a single oven at the back of a restaurant to hundreds of stores worldwide, Alain started LPQ based on a simple premise, wanting to provide people with the best and freshest organic bread. At the root of it all, he wanted, and still wants, to serve simple, quality food – good food that also does good. Alain is without doubt the embodiment of this phrase. He bought his 1750’s country house and the land around it in 2001, specifically so that he could grow his own organic vegetables and wine. “Good food that does good” means so much to Alain. It must be good for himself, the people he serves and, of course, the planet.
In this busy, time-consuming world, it was truly refreshing to take time away, eating at Alain’s communal table and reflecting on how now, more than ever, LPQ’s simplistic, authentic approach is truly something to be proud of. Alain is, after all, the ultimate host.
Three cheers to that.