Explore Provence Like A Local

For The Head Chef At Lily Of The Valley, The Pleasures Of The Table Are Just The Gateway To Living A Full, Rich Life In Provence
Vincent Maillard in the dining room at Lily of the Valley. hoto by Jérôme Mondière.
Director Of Dining And Chef, Lily Of The Valley

“Cooking is a love story,” says Vincent Maillard, quoting his mentor Alain Ducasse. “You need to fall in love with products and the people who make them.” Anyone who has experienced Vincent’s cuisine - at Lily of the Valley or in any of his previous, Michelin-starred dining rooms - has no trouble believing that this is his passion, and his gift.

Vincent started his career as a chef while he was still in school, helping out in the kitchen of his family’s inn in Burgundy. After training with some of the greatest names in gastronomy, Vincent won his first Michelin star in 2002 and has moved from strength to strength, burnishing the reputations of such storied properties as the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and Le Byblos in Saint-Tropez. When the call came to help launch Lily of the Valley, Vincent didn’t hesitate. “The values here – authenticity, wellness, respect for products and for nature – are the same as mine,” he says. “It’s a perfect match.”

The view from the Vista Pool deck.
Lily of the Valley

Unlike many hotels that have a gastronomic restaurant for grand occasions and a casual eatery for every day, Lily of the Valley has just one main dining area – Vista – where guests can compose a splendid meal at any time of the day or evening from a menu of fresh, delicious creations. To Vincent, this kind of dining is the new luxury. “A ‘gastronomic meal’ is one that makes you truly happy,” he says. “It can be a simple plate of charcuterie and a dish of olives, or the perfect fish from the oven. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. It just needs to be excellent – and exactly what you want.”

Local Recommendations

Lily Of The Valley’s Top Chef Encourages Guests To Get Out And Taste The Real Provence.

For Vincent Maillard, his adopted homeland in the south of France is a constant inspiration to live well. Here are five of his favorite suggestions for doing just that.

A Shopping Tour Of Artisanal Provence

It’s one of the first things you notice about Vista even before you order: Everything on the table, from the handmade pottery and glassware to the chunky steel salt-and-pepper shakers, is surprising, delightful and perfect for the restaurant. For that you can thank Vincent, whose passion for what the French call “l’art de la table” extends to equally passionate local artisans. A self-guided shopping tour might start at Poterie Ravel (8 Avenue des Goums, Aubagne; +33-4-42-82-42-00) in Aubagne and take in decorative ceramics at Atelier Buffile (2 bis Traverse de l'Aigle d'Or,Aix-en- Provence; +33-6-99-93-14-26) in Aix-en-Provence, La Verrerie de Biot (5 Chemin des Combes, Biot; +33-4-93-65-03-00) for glassware, and Dubosq & Fils (4 Grand'Rue, Tourrettes-sur-Loup; +33-6-24-34-29-35) in Tourrettes sur Loup for olive wood.

Atelier Buffile in Aix-en-Provence hand-makes ceramic plates for the tables at Lily of the Valley. Photo courtesy of Atelier Buffile.

A Pre-Dawn Quest For Fresh Langoustines

Ariel, at the market in Saint-Tropez (Place des Lices), does not suffer unfresh fish gladly: “If it’s not still moving, she won’t sell it,” says Vincent of his favorite fishmonger. So it’s a good thing that her husband and son are just as passionate about catching fish and seafood as she is about selling it – and as Vincent is about having perfect local langoustines to serve at Lily of the Valley. Guests are cordially invited to set their alarms for 3 a.m. and join the fishermen, and Vincent, for a pre-dawn expedition, with a langoustine lunch as the reward. “It may not be for everyone,” Vincent says with a laugh. “But seeing where your food comes from, and meeting the people who produce it, is very special.”

Fresh seafood is a Côte d’Azur staple. Lily of the Valley guests can accompany Vincent and his favorite fishermen to catch their own. Photo by Jean-Louis Chaix, courtesy of Ville de Saint-Tropez, www.sainttropeztourisme.com.

Gathering Greens With Lily Of The Valley’s Farmer

Yann Ménard runs La Piboule (148 Route du pont de Vinaigre, Cogolin; +33-6-58-58-51-84), an organic garden in nearby Cogolin, and he is Vincent’s go-to guy for fresh vegetables, salad greens and herbs for Lily of the Valley’s kitchen. Yann gardens barefoot – he says he “feels the earth better that way,” Vincent says – and during the spring and summer season he welcomes Lily of the Valley guests to join him and Vincent in gathering the day’s harvest, which go onto the menu at Vista in signature dishes like the Lily Salad. “When your cuisine is based on the quality of the ingredients, those ingredients have to be perfect,” Vincent says. “If they are from Yann’s garden, I know they are.”

The Jardin de la Piboule provides herbs and produce for Lily of the Valley. Guests are welcome to visit. Photo courtesy of Vincent Maillard.

Local Red And White Wines To Savor And Bring Home

Provence is known for its light rosé wines, made to be enjoyed young and cold during the long, hot summer. But Provençal cuisine has a wintry side as well, which pairs better with robust reds and fruity whites. Vincent likes Lily of the Valley’s guests to discover the full range of terroir from local wineries, including two neighbors in La Croix-Valmer: La Madrague (Boulevard de Gigaro, La Croix-Valmer; +33-4-94-49-04-54) makes a lovely red, the Cuvée César, and the Chateau de Chausse (Rue Frédéric Mistral, La Croix-Valmer; +33-4-94-79-60-57) is known for its vermentino.

The winemakers at La Madrague use ceramic jars as well as barrels to age their wines. Photo courtesy of Les Vins de La Madrague.

On The Shore Or In The Hills, Hikes To Clear The Head

Even a passionate chef has to get away from the kitchen once in a while. Vincent likes to clear his head and stretch his legs with long walks along the shore and in the spectacular hills around Lily of the Valley. “The shore walk can start at Gigaro beach and go all the way to the Old Lighthouse, with beautiful views of the coast,” he says. “I often picnic there with my children.” Vincent also likes the Chemin de Collebasse, in the back country. “I go there often in February/March to gather wild asparagus,” Vincent says. “I know a couple of spots that make for a nice day’s walk and a nice evening’s omelette!”

Gigaro beach, one of the most beautiful pieces of coastline on the Côte d’Azur, is great for jogging and strolling. Photo courtesy of Les Vins de La Madrague.