The mountains of France’s Massif Central dot the landscape in the Auvergne. This region in the center of France offers plenty for the outdoor enthusiast, a four-hour drive south of Paris. The lure of the Auvergne’s lakes and forests beckon hikers and anglers. The famous vistas offered by the Parc des Volcans and various historic sites occupy visitors who find themselves wandering this corner of France.
Chef Adrien Descouls created two more reasons to advance the Auvergne on your travel radar: His restaurant Origines par Adrien Descouls (use Google Translate to change from French to English as needed) and the delightful hotel, which share an expansive view over the verdant hills from their 3000-foot perch in the village of Le Broc-Issoire.
Though it was the expectation of a culinary treat that drove us to Origines late this spring. The sensory delight we experienced upon arrival was a surprising bonus. We never tired of the view across the valley from Origines – and have a camera card loaded with photos as proof.
Only 33 years old, Adrien Descouls is making his mark in France’s culinary world. No simple task in a country where chefs are revered. Already Origines holds a Michelin star. This honor was bestowed in 2020, a scant two years after Descouls returned to his native Auvergne to open his restaurant.
The chef gained national attention in his home country when he was sought out to take part in France’s Channel M6’s Top Chef in 2018. He described his stint on the popular program, where he was a semi-finalist, as “fun”. But his real passion is on display when at the helm in his kitchen not cooking under the lights of a television studio.
Impressive as being awarded a Michelin Star at age 30 may be, the chef downplayed hitting this mark at a young age. He pointed out that he had already put in 10 years in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. There he was mentored by well-known and accomplished chefs as his resume was burnished by tours in the cuisines of the Ritz and Georges V hotels. For Descouls the Michelin star is not a source of stress. He described the honor as “liberating”.
His toque is only one of many hats Descouls is wearing these days. He is also a husband, father of two, chef de cuisine, and chef d’hôtel.
Pile on top of these obligations keeping an eye on the construction project, which will bring five more rooms to Origines’ hotel, and there’s not much time for a break. If Descouls does find a moment to drop a fishing line in one of the region’s streams, it’s understandable that he tends to doze off.
Charmed From the Start
Present-day voyagers hopping off the A75 Autoroute for a visit to Origines are greeted by a modern structure. The hotel-restaurant has been carefully integrated into XII century stone walls that – in another era – protected the citizenry from marauders below.
At the door, the castle ruins were left behind as we crossed the threshold to a different world; the sleek, modern, and minimalist décor of Origines’ luxury hotel. A small bar and seating area for guests to lounge share the reception area. Two young women staffing the front desk greeted us cheerily. They described the amenities for us to enjoy as they escorted us to our room.
Guests are offered only a tease of the view about to be experienced by visitors to this Auvergne oasis at the reception desk. As we took our keycard, our hosts suggested that we not roam into the adjacent restaurant. It was their recommendation that we be wowed when we arrive later for dinner. We were later happy that we followed their advice.
A Room With A View
We began our temporary residence in one of the six chambres currently on the premises. The true expanse of the valley before us was exposed as we walked into our room. The green hills and long extinct volcanos stretched endlessly beyond the window, which spanned the width of our evening’s accommodation.
A curved bench follows the contour of the sleek and modern room. Among the modern touches are the electronically operated window coverings. Even the glass-enclosed shower has a switch allowing one to drop the shade if choosing not to have a view of the countryside while showering.
Origines’ rooms are a nice size for a short visit. All are equipped with a strong Wi-Fi signal, comfy king bed, desk, and a table for breakfast if you choose to dine in your room with a view.
Travelers have been stopping in Le Broc to take a meal for centuries. The ancient road used by travelers and Caesar’s Roman army once meandered nearby. The town was once a no doubt welcome respite for passersby after bouncing along the paving stones of the viae romanae.
Things have changed since the last Roman visited Le Broc. Each of the restaurant’s 14 tables shares a view of the mountain tops stretching out before the floor-to-ceiling windows. The theme of clean white lines and minimalist design allows for plenty of natural light in the morning for guests not taking breakfast in their rooms. At dinner, as the sun drops slowly over the hills, the dwindling sunlight gives way and the dining room is pleasantly illuminated by soft light, an unobtrusive fixture suspended above each table.
Only Local Providers
Chef Descouls returned to his native Auvergne, planning to take advantage of the region’s bounty. The chef grew up fishing the rivers, hunting in the forests, and gathering mushrooms from his boyhood home close to Origines. He was well acquainted with the abundance of ingredients awaiting out the door of his restaurant.
Guests at Origines are the beneficiaries of Descouls’ familiarity with the riches of the Auvergne. Only lake or river fish from the region are served. There are no crustaceans or fish from distant oceans on the menu. All providers are located in the Auvergne. If an ingredient is not found within 50 km of Origines, it’s not on the menu.
It takes more than simply being in the proximity of Origines for one’s product to find its way to Descouls kitchen. The chef has cultivated a personal relationship with the artisans, growers, and farmers who help feed his guests. He appreciates first-hand the process resulting in each of his suppliers bringing to him the finest ingredients. Descouls visits the gardens, fields, fish farm, cheese producers, and other providers to discuss their process and the timing of their deliveries. They are in partnership with the chef, sharing his passion for the painstaking production required to cultivate, produce, and nurture what is ultimately plated at Origines.
Settling à table to enjoy the sunset over the mountains with a glass of champagne is a proper start to an evening at Origines. The chef offers two menus from which to select. Guests can opt for a 7 or 8-course Menu Racines for 100 € or 120 €. The 12-course Menu Origines, at 170 €, provides a broader sampling of the chef’s innovations. Both are adventurous and befitting of an establishment bearing a Michelin star.
As one would expect, the staff was conscientious and engaging. Every plate was painstakingly organized. Each course smoothly presented. What was put before us was described with flourish. The staff have been infused with the chef’s enthusiasm and are a delight.
In a nod to the three stratum that glaciers left behind in the Auvergne, Descouls’ menu incorporates this thematic trilogy. Pigeon en croute, accompanied by a salad of peas and juice extracted from the pods is one example.
Dinner guests are soon introduced to Vincent Gardarin, master of Origines’ 2600 bottle wine cave. Gardarin recently joined Descouls after five years at Paris’ gourmet restaurant Epicure du Bristol.
The young sommelier, like the Chef, is an Auvergnat who returned to his roots to share with guests his passion and ability. Gardarin smoothly guides diners through the 450 wines found on Origines’ carte des vins.
For those wishing to enjoy a broader sampling with each course, the sommelier has organized wine pairings for 60€ or 100€.
The menu is seasonal. The rich Auvergnat soil produces early peas, late strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. In their time, they make their appearance on the menu. We arrived with the fleur de courgette (flower of the cucumber) in bloom and enjoyed the chef’s use of it in one of our entrées.
When white asparagus is in season, Descouls prepares it with pike roe and sheep curd. This creation is a memory from his mother’s cooking he passes along as the menu’s Warm White Asparagus.
The chef discovered ice cider while working in Canada. He found that its tangy flavor marries perfectly to char and his Char Alis Confit is another of Origines signature dishes.
Part of the magic of Origines is the opportunity to experience Descouls’ creations from what was in the ground or on the vine shortly before it is found in his kitchen.
When the server arrived with the cheese cart, it carried a selection of the local fare. Alongside well-known fromage from the region, Saint-Nectaire and Cantal, were a Tomme, and Saint-Félicien. The cheese selections were produced by local cheesemakers Descouls often calls upon to share their craft with his guests.
Many of the chef’s creations incorporate microgreens from the garden of Chris Kelner. Grown on a nearby hillside some of Kelner’s aromatic plants were even an integral part of our dessert – and we enjoyed several. We began our last course with Cassis et shizo rouge (black currant with aromatic shiso leaves) followed by a Déclination de fraise with chevre and verveine (strawberries with goat cheese and lemon verbena).For the finale, the Mignardises (delicacies), the pâtissier prepared a gateau Auvergnat served with thick cream and fresh fruits.
All good things do come to an end. A bit after midnight, we took the short walk to our room, forgoing the coffee offered as we finished our last course.
A Great Start
The chef has racked up impressive accomplishments in four years – two of which were under the cloud of the pandemic. In this short time, he was a Top Chef contestant, his restaurant was recognized with a Michelin star, and made the pages of the French restaurant guide Gault & Millau. The hotel and restaurant have also been recognized for their ecologically friendly management.
Descouls returned to his Auvergnat roots intending to create a restaurant that is friendly and professional. His desire is that the expectations of Origines’ customers are met while valuing the richness of the surrounding terroir through the lens of the young chef’s modern approach. He’s clearly hit the mark.
Tips for Visiting Origines par Adrien Descouls
Origines is a destination restaurant. Dinner followed by an overnight at Origines is a perfect break for voyagers plying the nearby N75 highway on their way to or from Spain or the South of France.
Things To Do When Not À Table
Pick up a guidebook or get online Discover France’s Stunning Auvergne – Europe Up Close, and you’ll discover there’s much to do in this region during any season.
Chateau du Murol – Dating from the 11th century, this is the most visited castle in the region.
Follow the Route des Fromages A.O.C. d’Auvergne Enjoy the Cheeses of France’s Auvergne Region – Europe Up Close and taste the many gourmet cheeses made in this region.
Besse-et-Saine-Anastaise – Enjoy a stroll among the black lava stone homes in this historic town. Some of the structures were built in the 12th century.
Puy-de-Dome – This extinct volcano is the highest peak in the area at 4806 feet (1464 meters). A 15-minute train ride to the summit offers expansive views across a chain of volcanos.
Hiking – Take to the hills along one of the many marked trails traversing the region.
There are around 80 volcanoes to hike amongst in the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne Visit the Auvergne volcanoes – Vulcania.
Origines by Chef Adrien Descouls – A Slice Of Heaven In The Auvergne was written by Kevin McGoff for EuropeUpClose. Photos were provided with permission from AURÉLIO RODRIGUEZ. As common in the travel industry, the writer was hosted to some or all of these experiences. However, this does not influence his review, and his opinion is his own.