Pass the port. The porch. La Ponche. The other side of Saint-Tropez with historical stones. With the feet licked by the lapping of the great blue lady. Overlooked by a legend: Simone Duckstein’s hotel. Cocoon where Sagan, Bardot, Piccoli, Vian, Sartre flirted with the smiles of the time …
Iconic speech taken by Hubert and Nicolas Saltiel, with Georges Saier. Refurbished, without offending the soul. Revisited, without haste the spirit. From the bedrooms to the terrace. From the stove to the restaurant. Poetic galaxy entrusted to the young chef Thomas Danigo. A stranger in the house …
Thirty seconds of reflection
“I wasn’t supposed to take over the kitchen, says the thirty year old. In fact, during the Covid period, I blew up my boss Mr. George in Paris, who had just acquired the plant, to help with maintenance. To occupy myself “.
Away from the symphony of the pots, for a month, here is the improvised move that empties the premises. He takes out the boxes. Dating. Stroll through this peaceful Saint-Tropez. Found!
“I fell in love with the place, with the people. And when I was offered the job, I thought for thirty seconds. For the shape.” Heaven cannot be rejected, especially after hell. This chaotic youth that evokes with hidden words. “I often took refuge with my grandparents. At home it was quite complicated.”
With his grandmother, great-grandmother, Thomas felt sheltered from storms. “They were preparing meals that dragged on from 12pm to 10pm.” He wasn’t greedy. I didn’t like anything. Except those moments of grace. With his grandmothers, you bulwark his anxieties.
At the age of 14, he then flew to Canada with his father. He has traveled. He follows three years of ski sports studies. He does odd jobs as a diver. “I took the opportunity to watch the cooks. Unconsciously, I think it worked for me.” So much so that on his return to the old continent, a thunder, at the age of 17, opted for a CFA, on a work-study basis, in Chartres.
“It was obvious. This job attracted me. Even though I jumped into the wolf’s mouth!” The shock is brutal for the lamb. “At first I was insulted all day. Sometimes it was violent. Old fashioned.” Paradoxically, Thomas doesn’t blame this trainer, a disciple of hi sadness. “It changed me. It pushed me to surpass myself.” To strive for excellence.
First a Great Monarch scheme. Then in the shadow of Alain Pégouret, emperor of the starry Lorenzoin Paris. “With my classmate, Simon Pinault, who is now my right hand man in the capital, we started there as a clerk.”
Afraid. Impressed. “But together, we stick together. We hold on. We collect.” Very quickly, the small provincial breaks the codes. Learn. I can’t stand the mistake. Forge a shell. One mind and climbs the ladder.
From sugar to pepper, at the age of 28, he inherited, with the strength of his talent, the kitchens of Galangalein the hotel Mr. George. “It was a liberation. I could do what I wanted.” Garnish the dish with its sparkles. Always with this feeling of “you can do better”. To the point that I followed a coach’s advice to learn how to put things in perspective.
This pursuit of perfection, the rising star of French gastronomy also inculcates, with his second Guillaume Jesson, in his brigade of La Ponche, “my new family”. With her, the adopted Tropezian proposes an inspired Mediterranean cuisine. “At the service of local actors. Producers I met here. Thanks in particular to chef Eric Canino, of Reserve in Ramatuelle.
Ardent defender of local producers
Thomas immersed himself in the books. Recipe books. He refines the palate with local products. Close ties with the fishermen of Cogolin, the Italian duo Enrico and Luca. He succumbed to Eric Barnéoud’s olive oil. Lover of Julien Ragusa cheeses. He fell under the spell of Yan Ménard and his mare Traviata. “I tasted his vegetables in the garden of La Piboule. Just above the ground. What happiness. We talk about all this with our customers. In my opinion it is a capital”.
He talks about it with love. From this mullet in the portfolio, Provencal stuffed courgette flowers, harissa and full-bodied jus. From this raw red tuna and watermelon with balsamic sauce, like a spicy tomato gazpacho.
Yes, with the love, pain skin of his childhood. The love she shares in the hollow of her dishes. Of the Earth. Where her feet are anchored. From the sea she loves so much. Her escape wadding. Of love, always, “my password, tattooed on my skin”. To never forget the essential …