La Chaine Gourmet Club initiates new members

The Confrérie de la Chaine des Rôtisseurs initiated 11 new members and appointed four new officers in a spirited ceremony in the Hotel Tryp in downtown San José on Saturday, Feb. 16. Presided over by Alain Taulere, chef and Bailli Delegué (chief) of the Costa Rica Chaine, it was a night filled with medieval ritual and lots of good humor. 

Dedicated to good food, good wine and good fellowship, this worldwide gourmet club has been growing steadily in Costa Rica, with 60 members in two chapters: Guanacaste and San José. Members include both food lovers and food and wine professionals.

New members, called chevaliers (knights) and dames (ladies), are welcomed into the Chaine with a sworn oath, a sword-dubbing ceremony and a ceremonial silk-ribbon garland. Professional members and officers are similarly “inducted,” but sport different-colored garlands, denoting their status. 

The club’s colorful traditions go back to the time of medieval guilds (chaines) in France, explained Carlo Di Bartolo, owner/chef of Restaurante DiBartolo, head of the culinary department at Universidad Latina and current Vice-Conseiller Culinaire of the Chaine. Goose-roasters (rôtisseurs) received royal warrants, beginning in 1248, to practice their trade in the palaces and chateaux of the aristocracy. All that came to an end with the French Revolution, said Di Bartolo, speaking in Spanish.

Brad Lloyd, former Food and Beverage Manager of the Melía Conchal Hotel and current Chancelier of the Chaine, picked up the story in English, telling the gathering that after World War II, a group of journalists and chefs in Paris metaphorically re-launched the guild as a way to promote French cuisine and wine throughout the world.

As the Chaine has expanded in Costa Rica, it has both reflected and made an impact on the growing appreciation and demand for fine food and international wines here. The Chaine’s professional members now include 13 owners of restaurants and hotels, three general managers of restaurants and hotels, 14 Mâitre Rôtisseurs (chefs), three Mâitre Restaurateur (dining room managers) and one chef de table (dining room captain). On the wine side, members now include seven wine professionals (importers and distributors), and one sommelier (professional wine taster).

A measure of the culinary sophistication now available in Costa Rica was the ambitious menu served at the celebratory dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, the Gastro Bar en la 38. Norman Martinez, newly appointed bailli (governor) of the San José branch, and Food and Beverage Manager of the Tryp Hotel, pulled out all the stops as executive chef of a six-course dinner for 60 diners. Starting with phyllo cornets stuffed with shrimp tartare and lemon cream, the main dishes included duck breast served with a delectable date and maple sauce, and lamb loin infused with lavender, accompanied by chocolate sauce. 

A sparkling Spanish cava started the evening off, followed by two French vintages – a Pays d’Oc viognier and a Burgundy pinot noir; followed by two Italian wines – an Umbrian Sagrantino de Montefalco and a Piemontese Brachetto d’Aqui; and an Argentine malbec from the Rio Negro. The wine list alone was an education in wonderful wines rarely served in Costa Rica. The dinner was a tour de force of perfectly matched wines with exquisite food.

For more information about the Chaine and upcoming events, visit www.chainedesrotisseurs.com.