Asparagus soup, cheesy profiteroles and fluffy chocolate mousse were on the menu Sunday as five Japanese chefs showed culinary gratitude to hospital workers treating COVID-19 patients in the French city of Dijon.

“It’s a way of saying ‘arigatō‘ — thanks,” said Takashi Kinoshita, chef at Chateau de Courban, a Michelin-starred restaurant about two hours by car from Paris.

“In Japan, when there is a natural or health-related catastrophe we look to see what we can do. One must always think of others,” said Kinoshita, whose establishment closed its doors in mid-March as France went into a nationwide lockdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chef kicked off his gratitude initiative last week, offering about 100 meals to front-line hospital workers.

“But since then, my Japanese chef friends have called me and joined in. Each prepares his own dishes,” said Kinoshita.

For Sunday’s offering, Tomofumi Uchimura from Dijon’s Stephane Derbord restaurant prepared asparagus soup and poached egg in pine nut oil.

Keiko Kimura, from the Michelin-starred L’Asperule, also in Dijon, and Keishi Sugimura, from Beaune’s one-starred Benaton, made a dish of Pinot Noir-marinated braised chuck steak.

For appetizers there were Kinoshita creations in the form of gougeres a l’epoisses — profiteroles made from soft, creamy and famously pungent cow’s milk cheese from the Burgundy region — as well as savory macaroons with black currant mustard.

And for dessert, Kinoshita and Sae Hasegawa, head patissier at Chateau de Courban, prepared a delicate chocolate mousse and pear-and-Philippine lime crumble.

The Japanese quintet cooked up their creations entirely with donations from restaurants and producers. “We will continue,” Kinosita said. “Next week we will deliver to the Beaune Hospital and then the one in Troyes.”

Sunday’s banquet was served in a parking lot outside the university hospital in Dijon at a safe distance from the main building, as “you have to respect the rules” of social distancing during lockdown, Kinoshita noted.

The chef said he has received “a number of messages” of gratitude from hospital workers treating people sickened by the virus that has left more than 7,500 people dead in France to date.

“They say thanks,” he said, “and that it gives them strength” to keep going.


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