At 47 years old, Frenchman Thierry Balligand participated in his first Olympics… in front of a hot oven! He and his team from the restaurant La Table du Pigonnet in Aix-en-Provence were selected for a special task. Their mission was to ensure the preparation of several prestigious dinners for the members of the organising committee.

Originally from the north of France, this Chef has become one of the best ambassadors of Provençal cuisine. The only French Chef at the games, he commented, “I am fortunate to be well-accompanied. I arrive with competent people with a lot of willpower. We have zero internal pressure, just that we want to put in a good performance, but all in harmony and confidence.” As the only Frenchman, Balligand was selected along with two other chefs, one Korean and one American.

Among the menus envisaged: Ox-tail soup, followed by a tournedos of Lotte cheeks and a squid persillade with a revered risotto, and for dessert, iced Calisson (a speciality of Aix-en-Provence).

At “La Table du Pigonnet” in Aix, diners can admire a view of Mount St Victoire, venerated and painted from the very same place by Cezanne. The hotel and restaurant were bought a few years ago by French actor Christophe Lambert and a close associate, enamoured with the property’s breath-taking architecture, gardens and views.