A TOUR OF LE JARDIN DE JAN
As much as I love a food market for the inspiration it brings me as a chef, it doesn’t quite compare to the thrill of planting your own seeds, nurturing them, watching them grow and using the ingredients they yield in your own cooking. You suddenly realise that cooking is about so much more than combining ingredients. Every ingredient is the result of an entire life cycle. That’s why Le Jardin de JAN, the garden we created for Restaurant JAN last year, was such a passion project for me. And like everything in the historic part of Nice, the garden comes with a great story.
THE NAPOLEONIC CONNECTION
It is well known in Nice that, during his time as a sergeant in the French army, Napoléon Bonaparte grew quite fond of the little garden in the courtyard at L’Abeille (which means bee). If it comes as a surprise to you that Napoléon might have enjoyed a spell of gardening, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s not clear whether he knew a secateur from a gardening fork. During those long summer nights when peace reigned over the Beautiful City, Napoléon used the garden to entertain any number of his many mistresses.
BORN IN SPRING
During that first spring in 2020, when France was still in lockdown, my team and I at Restaurant JAN entered into a partnership with L’Abeille Nice, beautifully redesigned boutique apartments located in the historic heart of the city. Since then, the courtyard has transformed into a potager garden that supplies the restaurant with an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that we use in our cuisine and cheese room preserves.
To help us realise our vision and to ensure the garden blossomed as expected, we sought the help of Julie Thebault, who grew up in Nice and who has had a lifelong passion for gardening. With every passing month and season, she got to know the garden at L’Abeille better. In our conversation for JAN the Journal Volume 7, she told me that at first, she planted everything to see what would work in the space. The courtyard gets no direct sunlight from November through February, for instance, but now in the garden’s second summer, our JAN picnics at L’Abeille are a hit!
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF
For anyone who would like to grow their own potager garden, Julie advises, “Start small, choose a place with the most sun, with good irrigation and cover your soil. At first, buy your plants, but then, try to seed yourself. You’ll produce your own seeds very quickly! Give your plants love, light, water and a rich soil.”