The chef and his secret garden: Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur


This is a story that began with a meal. The location was the improbable Côte d'Azur, the blue sky coast of Southern France.  Think Malibu, only with more money and even thinner, tanner bodies.  Needless to say it's not the land of great restaurants, despite the temperate climate, abundant produce – from just over the border in Northern Italy on one side and Provence on the other – not to mention the pristine seafood local fishermen bring in daily from the Mediterranean.  

We heard of an ambitious young chef, fresh from the sublime l'Arpège in Paris, who had fallen in love with the region and opened a restaurant, Mirazur, in Menton, the last little town just before the Italian border.  When we made our way there, we found a chef whose story was as unlikely as his locale. 


Argentinean-born of Italian and Spanish descent, Mauro Colagreco found his love of gastronomy under the talented and lamented Bernard Loiseau, Le Côte d'Or in Saulieu, and perfected his craft under the exigent Alain Passard in Paris.  He was awarded his Michelin star the first year Mirazur opened, and when he was named Chef of the Year in the French guide Gault Millau, he became the first non-French chef to have been given the title.  To this day he remains the only one.

The first taste of his food, I understood why.  Here's a chef who understands and celebrates quality ingredients, not with the indignant refusal to "do much to the food", but with exquisite skills and wild imagination – the Argentinean side of him I'm sure – that both surprise and delight.  I still dream of the impossibly sweet red prawn, enrobed by ribbons of fresh young asparagus, borage and wild garlic blossoms and a drizzle of buttery Ligurian olive oil.  Biting into it, I realized that one of the asparagus ribbons was sweeter and had a more delicate perfume than the rest.  It was in fact a thin, long sliver baby green zucchini, just pretending.  That little gesture changed the dynamics of the whole composition, and it'll make you beg for more.  Asked where the superlative prawns came from, Mauro told us that he drove to Ventimiglia, a small market town just over the Italian border to his favorite fish monger to get them – Gamberi Rossi as they're called there – a couple times a week.  Some of the vegetables came from the budding potager that he just started down the street.    


In nearby Monaco, where great restaurants come gilded, white-gloved footmen carry caviar-adorn plates under Sterling Silver domes to table.  Here at Mirazur, the star is the colorful food on the white plates.  The resolutely unadorned, modern dining room embraces you, not with its grandeur, but with the 360° visage of the blue beauty of the Mediterranean by day, and twinkle stars and glimmering lights from nearby shores by night.  My heart skips a beat every time I walk in to that room.  The restaurant inhabits the surroundings just as perfectly as the food exhibits that elusive sense of place most chefs claim to have but never realize.


Mauro's approach to food so much resembles David's, needless to say they became fast friends.  The following year, we returned again to the Côte d'Azur, and Mauro insisted that aside from our scheduled dinner, we came back the next day to see his garden and share a simple meal that we cook together from what we find there.  

A short walk down the street, then a little way up the hill, we came upon a worn iron gate leading up to Mauro's secret garden.  It's no ordinary farm, it's a potager on the grounds of a dilapidated mansion, a veritable palazzo built high on the hills above Menton.  Occupying the terraces leading up to the main house are now Mauro's growing beds.  There're old fruit trees, still producing delicious figs, peaches, and golden yellow and blood red plums.  Hachiya persimmons that are all juicy pulp barely contained by the thinnest layer of skin.  Tomatoes, grapes, lettuces, edible flowers, exotic citrus all flourishing under the bright sun and temperate climate of the coast.  No wonder they taste so good, just look at the view they enjoy every day.  



We picked some greens, a handful of young leeks, herbs, and whatever else I could grab along the way, and headed back to Mirazur for lunch.  Mauro had picked up some local oysters and a small swordfish from his fishmonger earlier.   He cooked a very simple lunch, swordfish with a sauce made from emulsion of citrus, olive oil, and mixed herbs from the garden.  The leeks were sauteed until tender with butter.  The oysters chucked and served with little beads of sharp, fragrant finger limes.  The dessert was the figs served atop some crumbled up sweet biscuits leftover in the kitchen from dinner service.  We ate in the airy lounge under the main dining room.  The meal couldn't be simpler, or the settings more beautiful.  What a delectable experience that day was.


Since then, Mauro and his darling wife Daniella have come visit us here on the California Coast.  He even visited our very own (not so) secret garden, and did a wildly successful guest chef stint at Manresa.  

Now, do you want to hear the good news?  He's coming again in just two weeks.  Mauro will be cooking with David at Manresa, two dinners on Saturday April 10 and Sunday April 11.  Saturday night is pretty much sold out I was told, but there are still a few tables available on Sunday.  That's why I can't resist telling you, my readers, about him.  I'm going to be there as well, so if you're there, do come and say hello.  You might also want to whisper to your server that you're a Chez Pim fan, who knows, you might get a little something special for that.  Wink, wink.

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  • Lemon Tart

    Thank you Pim. We had a most memorable 4 hour lunch at Mirazur in October. We literally crossed the border, as we had just spent 2 weeks in Italy, and headed to Mirazur where we had a reservation waiting for us. It was the best way to “come home” to France, a place we adore. And the food blew me away. The simplicity, modern style, the colours and the price given the quality- well that and the view! I dream of it on grey, rainy west coast days like today.

  • Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

    One of these days I am going to be in Côte d’Azur, I will dine at Mirazur, and it will be a dream come true!
    I’m impressed with the freshness of the ingredients. Oh and that beautiful red fleshed fig – luscious and incredible!

  • Abby Brown

    Love the photos of your site! i appreciate this as a photo beginner. Relevant digital camera review

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    I love the photos of your menus, great and the beach relaxing..I want to visit that place someday…

  • Capitola Restaurants

    I gotta say that is an amazing presentation there. It looks wonderful and makes my mouth water…

  • Diane

    That place surely must be heaven on earth. I need to be Pim – if only for a day!!

  • Orlando

    ohh its my favorite garden.

  • Sirkka

    That looks so delicious

  • B. Glass Designs

    Sounds lovely and makes me wish I was in the states where everything feels a plane ride away.
    I am going to be traveling to Mallorca and Morocco and hoping to find good food recommendations.

  • thepinkpeppercorn

    The food, and the SURROUNDINGS look absolutely gorgeous! YUM!

  • celinabean

    Ohhhh, I was just in Pacific Grove last week. Now back home on the East Coast. Drat!

  • Dinners and Dreams

    Your photos are gorgeous. I love the presentation of the food-so appetizing!
    Happy Easter and have a wonderful weekend!

  • Michel

    I enjoyed your segment on Dining Around with Gene Burns yesterday. It was nice to hear your voice after reading so many of your posts.

  • Sarah Landmesser

    I just relized that you have alot of followers


    I agree with Diane.
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  • Brett Sutcliffe

    Oh my god. It is so beautiful.
    It is a piece of art not only food.

  • tampa-bankruptcy-attorneys

    I like to taste something different.

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    That’s one healthy looking plate..

  • Drew

    That looks amazing…I want to go now…

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    Love those pictures from Monaco, so amazing made me really want to go there. One day, one day….. :) )))

  •!/profile.php?id=1623392924 marilyn

    wow ..those are amazing.. :)
    i also want to create a blog of my own and display gorgeous pictures of our wonderful delicacies but i don’t know how to start…

  • Amy

    oh wow look at that, so beautiful!! how i wish I can just pick this up from my screen, haha! keep it up :-)

  • Singing Lessons Melbourne

    WOW……..such a nice personalization. Love your blog can’t wait you update. :p

  • ckrchmar

    beautiful post Pim, I took my husband to the Mauro Colagreco dinner at Manresa for his birthday (two years ago?) Jeff was pouring Krug in magnum and we sat next to you and Daniella, we spoke some french, a little spanish and we enjoyed the dinner immensely. We also had been in Menton the previous winter, if only we knew of Mauro then. Thanks for the nice reminder.

  • Decor

    these images remind me of the sublime food at fabu MUGARITZ, outside of san sebastian. wonder if he studied with andoni aduriz.

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  • Family camping tents

    Sure, as you provide a link to buying an “enhancer,” “weight loss pill,” or “acne treatment med” on every post on the blog…PM ME on Yahoo “Insert really long name starting with a female nameThe flavor to fish to get you to go to an adult site…

  • Open to Grace

    Thank you for your post! Côte d’Azur has been on the top of my “places-to-go” list for a long time and your post only confirms that I must go to Mirazur!

  • GHD

    Thank you for sharing, O (∩ _ ∩) O ~,This is Amy. Message from:

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    Thanks for share,great article!^^
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  • The Montana Muse

    I really enjoyed this post and I followed you. Could you please follow me back? I’m a new blogger and I’m trying to connect with like-minded people. I would appreciate it! Anyone else interested in photography or crafts can feel free to add me as well. This place has really made me feel at home! Please keep blogging!

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  • healthy kitchen

    The place was awesome and the food looks really nice.. Love it..

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    please visit our cool spanish blog

  • Jimmy-in-Seattle

    Hi Pimmy. Just got back from six months in “your” beautiful Thailand…Happy New Year to you!
    I’ve been doing alot of catch-up. I see MANY great photos attached to your stories! Bravo!! When I saw your recent France story I couldn’t help but think – ‘France again??’…Oh well, at least there was Figs. ;-)

  • Tebonin

    Can’t wait for your blog updating…
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    The location was the improbable Cote d’Azur, the blue sky coast of Southern France. Mauro Colagreco is the chef de cuisine of Mirazur, a modern restaurant set in Menton

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    Wonderful shots. The foods are really something. The place looks perfect.

  • home4eco

    Looks like amazing food. I like the fact he uses all natural, fresh ingrdients.

  • Brett Sutcliffe

    wow, look at that, I’m already drooling, great color, looks delicious

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    yes it does

  • Alabama

    I’m loving the photos & it’s making me hungry!

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    Gorgeous location and delicious food (it must be since it looks so pretty), I wouldn’t need anything more.

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    this looks so damn great im getting hungry ;)

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    Totally unimpressed … if you can get your wonderful spammer to stop spamming ridiculous comments on my blog that would be great!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nina Gaskell

    Looking at the pictures makes you hungry – well done!
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  • Anonymous

    Your picture are so nice. And a first dish decorated in such a wonderful way. I loved your way to serve. In a beautiful way you used green vegetable with such king of dish.
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    Such a beautiful mosaic of pictures and such a lovely idea as a reminder of photographs you have taken. your pictures are beautiful as always.

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    I like that all beautiful location and also that picture and recipe is looking great. I am so impressed by that. I think that  first dish decorated in such a wonderful.