Some 45 years ago, the place was a petrol station where truck drivers stopped on their way to France which was less than 500 meters away on the road crossing what today is Léa Linster, Cuisiniere restaurant, in Frisange, Luxembourg. The restaurant earned a star in the Michelin guide in 1987, and two years later, Léa won the Bocuse d’Or award, being the first woman to win this contest, a big deal in an era where the Chef’s world despised women a bit (but just a bit) more than today.
Léa is 61 and has a heart as big as Luxembourg, leaving some room for the guests too. I dined in her restaurant two days ago, simple and delicious food, as pleasant as a hug you’ve been wanting for a long time. The menu underwent small and few changes in the past 20 years, really proving that sometimes it’s not the case. The treat from the restaurant continued the following day in her house between the vines, a Huf Haus built on a wooden frame, with huge windows and a dizzying-calming panorama.
Her house was built by Huf Haus 21 years ago on the site of an old cabin. It looks the same as in the year of its building, impeccable, seductive, warm. It is imbibed in Léa’s good karma, karma which we managed to share since one of the Huf Haus company managers has been friends with Léa for over 40 years.
My visit to the small village of Hufendorf of Hartenfels made up of Huf houses ended with the modesty, passion and love lesson this lady gave me. And with a cooking lesson, conveyed in such a simple, direct and strong way that I feel it changed me in a way that can only be positive to those who will be tasting my food henceforth. While talking to Léa about techniques and how you can help a lesser quality ingredient, she offered me this perspective: `if you have a carrot that’s not good enough, you’re better off cooking a tomato`.
It’s a simple and genius way of saying that a chef has no excuse, no reason to cook with a subpar ingredient, but he always has a different option, which is at the same time an obligation towards his own art: to always look for the best ingredient and allow himself to be guided by it. The same thing is valid for those building planes, houses, ovens, should they strive for excellence.