Philippe and Martine Da Silva celebrated 25 years of Michelin-starred gastronomy and love of customers at the Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort with a sumptuous gastronomic dinner.
The Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort is a haven of peace in Callas, in the heart of the Var, where chef Philippe Da Silva‘s Michelin-starred gastronomy and his wife Martine‘s hospitality are generously combining with the Provençal Art of Living and the grandiose gorges opening at his feet. On November 8th, 2019, this internationally recognized institution thanks to chef Philippe Da Silva’s talent and passion celebrated 25 years of a star that illuminates the terroir of La Dracénie.
A grandiose site
Overlooked by the picturesque chapel dedicated to Notre Dame de Pennafort, the Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort displays the charms of a Provencal farmhouse in a setting of steep cliffs whose pink rocks are fascinating at night under a clever lighting. This former coaching inn has become a charming hostel where luxury and refinement can be found in the elegant interiors as well as in the chef’s generous plates. An essential stopover on the magnificent Provence Wine Route in a grandiose site, the hostel opens onto a magnificent park populated with monumental sculptures whose signatures by famous artists respond to the sublime menu signed by the chef’s portrait.
Tasty cuisine and warm welcome fit together
Philippe and Martine Da Silva gel as a team and form a double act of exception which forged over the years the success of the Hostellerie. Chef Philippe Da Silva has been using his cooking talent for 50 years, half of them at the stoves of the Gorges de Pennafort in Callas. In the large dining room, with its enchanting floral and lavish bouquet of fresh flowers, or on the terrace shaded by the lime trees, his wife Martine welcomes her guests with her wonderful sense of hospitality.
Les Gorges de Pennafort, 25 Years of a Star, action!
On the big screen of the Gorges de Pennafort gorgeous decor, the gala evening celebrated the Michelin star hanging on the pediment of the establishment for 25 years as a movie star whose adventures took place in a scenario in eight sequences with titles borrowed from famous movies. The performance-style retrospective with lyrics and music, told by Patrick Lallement, described the adventures of the Da Silva couple in the city and on stage. At the same time, the 25 years of the prestigious destiny of the Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort alongside the Garrassin family, owner of the bewitching place, were illustrated with photos from the personal collections of the two families.
Amadeus – a night in Salzburg
The film opens on snowy Salzburg on a 24 December evening. Philippe and Martine, having planned to spend the New Year’s Eve in the famous Café Mozart, are disappointed because they find the door closed. After strolling in the cold in search of a table, they will find spiritual and warm food inside a cathedral while attending Christmas Mass. Back at their hotel, they will finally enjoy charcuterie and cheese salvaged from the hotel’s kitchens, accompanied by caviar and vodka brought from Paris. It’s over three o’clock when Philippe, then two-star chef of Le Chiberta in Paris, offers his wife to leave the capital for Callas, a 1,500-soul village in the middle of nowhere. The next scene will have the Gorges de Pennafort as a backdrop!
Five years earlier, Maurice Garrassin, owner of the quarry of La Catalane, bought the estate with a ruined house from the Army, because the scraps of washing materials produced by the quarry were beginning to infringe upon it. In early 90, he decided to create a hotel restaurant and entrusted his daughter Geneviève with the restoration of the abandoned country house. The establishment opened in May 1991 for the launch of the new S-Class Mercedes: the journalists from around the world left the Carlton in Cannes to discover the qualities of the sumptuous limousine and met in Pennafort to enjoy a snack.
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To operate the kitchens of the Hotel de Pennafort, the Garrassin family at first hires a chef. But they don’t get along well… The rest of the scenario is imagined and written by Bernard Henry with Gilbert Hugou, truffle producer in Rougiers, which among other great restaurants, provided the Chiberta. In 1994, he introduced the couple Da Silva, who for some time had already been thinking of leaving Paris for Japan or the United States. They sympathise, especially as a Michelin-starred chef is a good omen to revive the hostel.
For his part, Philippe Da Silva has since his early childhood close ties with Pennafort. He decided to try the adventure of Le Var with his wife, originally a daughter of a baker from Brignoles, who is delighted to reconnect with her roots. The adventure begins on March 29, 1995 and the chef gets his first star the next year.
The Name of the Rose
The village of Callas boasts a rich medieval past. The story of Pennafort (penna in Provençal means rock) dates back to the ninth century. In 1298, Georges de Vintimille pays homage for his fief of Pennafort to Charles II, King of Sicily and count of Provence. In 1559, the inhabitants make the revolution and kill the lord of Callas. In 1720, under the reign of Louis XV, Callas became a royal city. In the 19th century, specialized in the cultivation of olive trees, Callas has 23 mills. Today, the Moulin de Callas press the olives from 500 producers.
Former coaching inn, the country house had the advantage of being on the road connecting the seaside to the mountain, including the villages towards the Gorges du Verdon. In place of the present bay windows, wide carriage doors opened on the sheds where carts and stagecoaches were parked, for the travelers stopped there to eat and to sleep.
And God Created Woman
The solitary scenes, Philippe Da Silva prefers duets. For example, the one he has been forming with Ali for 20 years, emblematic figure of the dining-room, chef de rank, assistant-butler, having started as a dishwasher. Those he teams up with Nathalie, reception clerk, with Anthony Sallièges his deputy chef, Odile his sommelier, Ludovic, assistant maître d’hôtel or Sandrine who prepares the breakfasts.
But none compares to the tandem formed for 25 years ago with the one who supported, accompanied, advised him: his wife Martine. However, when she arrived in Pennafort, Martine did not know the job. But, by dint of courage and tenacity and working 14 hours a day for 20 years, the charming hostess with the great sense of hospitality became an accountant, HR, lawyer… Martine is a smiling, intelligent, visionary, very human woman, able to adapt to everything and everyone.
Le Grand Restaurant
For a quarter of a century, Philippe Da Silva’s talent, creativity, commitment and generosity has been making the Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort one of the most popular restaurants in the south of France. Regulars from all over the world come here to enjoy his both modern and refined, contemporary and uncluttered cuisine: ravioli of fois gras with truffles and parmesan cheese; lobster salad with candied tomatoes; pan-fried langoustines with chanterelles; carpaccio of pineapple tomato; St. Pierre with morels; lobster in tartar; green asparagus and mango vinaigrette; braised veal sweetbreads and spinach sprouts; pineapple and grapefruit carpaccio refreshed with basil…
A River Runs Through It
“A restaurant is a party, the place must be cheerful, which is why I want a lot of fresh flowers.” Philippe Da Silva says. “No canvases on the wall, some curtains framing large bay windows, generous and welcoming armchairs, heavy white tablecloths covering the leather and wooden tables and roses on each of them. Everything contributes to the well-being and sreneity. I really like Art deco, and I find the dining-room sober and clean, refined but modern, in harmony with my cuisine… Finally the curtains and the cellar are enough to constitute a decor. ”
On sunny days, from May to September, a large terrace is welcoming the guests with a bioclimatic pergola that allows you to enjoy the view of the gorges whose rocks are constantly changing colors. Reddish in the summer, they have hints of green in the autumn. When they are wet, they darken. “We only placed one piece of art at the end of the terrace, nature takes care of the rest!”
La Dolce Vita
Discovering or rediscovering Philippe Da Silva’s cuisine means offering oneself a special moment out of time. Therefore, why not extend the pleasure and enjoy the Hostellerie to the full? Nestled in lush greenery, facing the pink walls of the Gorges de Pennafort, seven bedrooms occupy the floor above the restaurant. Three bedrooms with living-room and three Junior Suites share the building attached to the Hostellerie. In a contemporary and warm style and decor imagined by the Geneviève Garrassin’s creative genius, antique furniture, current materials and high-end equipment harmonize for a unique stay experience in Provence.
The sense of celebration
The sense of celebration is part of everything Philippe does: “At Pennafort, I found my paradise that I am sharing with those who come to take a break.” Philippe and Martine Da Silva are constantly turning the Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort into memorable celebrations decors. Just like the Russian nights that come to mark the end of the season. “Regulars sometimes book four to five years in advance to attend.” he sais. “For the occasion, I revisit Russian recipes and many charity events are also organized, like the Soirée of great Sportsmen fron the region.”
Menu of the 25 Years of a Star (photos YesICannes.com)
Cream of Lucas’ chickpea
Dried and smoked beef carpaccio, mushrooms with balsamic vinegar
Ravioli of foie gras and Parmesan cheese
Roasted bar and porcini mushrooms
Scallops and compotée of potimarron
Lime granité and cranberry sorbet
Fillet of lamb with Monsieur Auda’s vegetables
Pré-dessert & White Chocolate Dome
Philippe Da Silva’s beautiful houses
A cooks in the soul, Philippe Da Silva forged his talent with a few mentors. At 14, he was apprenticed in Grimaud to Claude Girard at Les Santons, who gave him his first foothold in the trade and taught him the basics. Jean-Michel Bédier, at Julius in Genevilliers, then at Le Chiberta in Paris inculcated in him the rigor. He will then offer two Michelin stars to Le Chiberta. Jean Delaveyne, nicknamed the sorcerer of Bougival, revealed to him the secrets of inverted puff pastry and its cooking, as well as pastry cream. Maurice Lormeau, President of the Federation of Parisian Butchers, taught him the meat and showed how to choose it according to its color, its grain, its fat… Finally, Louis-Noel Richard, owner of Le Chiberta, taught him to open up to others.
Lover of Provence and its products
Whether he magnifies the simplest dishes or the most elaborate products, Philippe Da Silva always adds the personal touch that brings the craftsman closer to the artist, this touch of madness, this sense of balance in tastes, presentation, colors, materials, textures… that turn his plates into real carved paintings, in addition of the fireworks of flavors.
Lover of good “produits du terroir”, he often finds his products close to the Hostellerie, focusing on short circuits. Philippe buys from two small fishermen from Saint-Raphaël. If he picks up herbs from his garden, his lobsters and langoustines come from Brittany, his calf from le Limousin, his sweetbreads from Rungis. Over the years, the list of his suppliers has become a network of friends, with absolute reliability.
The starred chef, who celebrated his 50th birthday of trade in the spring, concludes: “I am cooking as I am living, with simplicity and generosity!”
Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort, 25 Years of a Star in images
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