In a stylishly converted barn an hour south of central Paris two expat Australian chefs are redefining what it means to be truly hands-on with their craft.
Set in the garden of 15th-century country house Chateau de Saint-Vrain in France’s Ile-de-France region, Le Doyenné has been a five-year labour of love for chefs and co-owners James Henry and Shaun Kelly, who earned a reputation for their inventive, highly seasonal bistro-style fare after landing in Paris kitchens in the early 2010s.
Henry (ex-Cumulus Inc) helped launch the acclaimed Au Passage in Paris’ hip 11th arrondissement before going on to open his wildly popular first restaurant, Bones, nearby in 2013. Meanwhile Kelly (a fellow Cumulus Inc alumnus) trained with chef Fergus Henderson at London’s iconic St. John and worked alongside Henry at Au Passage before heading up the kitchen at the Australian Embassy in Paris.
Leaving the buzz of Paris behind in 2017, the pair escaped the city for a slower-paced existence managing the garden at the historic farmhouse once owned by the Borghese family. Here, following the principles of regenerative agriculture, they began to transform the estate’s decades-old kitchen garden and orchards into a verdant market-style farm that, for the next couple of years, would supply produce to some of the top restaurants in Paris.
Combining French tradition and Australian originality, their new 40-seat farm-to-table restaurant Le Doyenné showcases the spoils of Henry and Kelly’s labour through a menu that celebrates the seasons, reinvents the classics, and changes daily according to each morning’s harvest. With its open kitchen and rustic elegance, the light-filled dining room (designed by French architectural studios Cigu. and 1024) offers views of both the chefs at work and the heirloom fruit and vegetable garden, which boasts more than 100 heirloom varieties and acts as the spiritual heart and soul of the operation.
At the time of writing, the pair is busy preparing to launch a new 11-room guest house at the site, extending the opportunity of visitors to immerse themselves in the rustic charm of the countryside bordering the French capital.