“My food is like me, full of character”

Tucked away at the edge of Monaco, with nothing but the sound of lapping waves and the warmth of soul-enriching sunshine, Melanie Serre is busy adapting her recipes to the organic ingredients that she is now committed to using at Elsa.

“It is something that we have to do for our future, but it is a real challenge, the taste of everything is so different. I have had to adjust all the recipes I wrote in Paris,” the chef reveals to Monaco Life. “It is also very difficult to find all-organic produce, so I have had to make my own products like spices, etc. I never imagined that I would be doing this one day, but I am glad that I did.”

Melanie Serre is clearly not one to shy away from challenges. She trained in prestigious establishments like Eden Roc in St. Barts and the Hôtel Métropole Monte-Carlo under Christophe Cussac, and landed her first job as chef at L’atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile in Paris, a restaurant with two Michelin stars, where she rose to executive chef within a year. In 2020, she spread her wings, joined the Parisian restaurant Louis Vins and won the Gault & Millau Young Talent prize.

The 36-year-old says she is now happy to be back in Monaco, where she can walk among the private fruit and vegetable gardens of the Monte-Carlo Beach, tasting the raw produce and be inspired by the possibilities. “In Paris, it is much more difficult to cook organically, so this is a real opportunity for me,” she says, adding that she loves to talk to local producers, “to learn about their approach, and what made them go organic.”

Melanie Serre defines her food as a mixture of “deliciousness and elegance”.

“I season a lot, so the dishes have character,” she says. “I have a big character, and I like food with character. That’s why I love pepper, chilli and spice.”

Carrots with cumin, carrot top pesto, fresh orange and ginger juice

Seated on the tranquil beachside terrace, surrounded by a bird-filled pine forest, we are presented with a three-course lunch menu, an official welcome to Chef Melanie Serre. It begins with an amuse-bouche of creamy courgette foam and dried fruits. It is a surprisingly flavourful start to a menu that travels from a bowl of sweet and salty carrots, exhilarated with pops of cumin, carrot top pesto, ginger and orange; to a classic Mediterranean dish of freshly-caught red mullet, potato gnocchi, and black garlic; and finishes with a refreshing plate of vervain-soaked red fruits, black pepper-speckled meringue, and strawberry sorbet.

Every dish is laden with the character that Chef Serre had promised, which is not an easy task in an eco-friendly restaurant like Elsa. There is often the risk that, when creating colourful wellness cuisine, flavour can be compromised. But there is no doubt here of the chef’s emphasis on seasoning.

Red mullet with potato gnocchi, peppered arugula, and black garlic

I’m excited to try the other dishes on the menu, perhaps the creamy burrata from Puglia with crunchy peas and almond milk, the blue lobster bisque spiced with citrus zest, or the beef tenderloin marinated in sweet spices served with beet curry.

It is understandable why Danièle Garcelon, Monte-Carlo Beach General Director, is so excited to have Serre at the helm of the Elsa kitchen.

“I am happy to have a young woman amongst the stars like Alain Ducasse, Yannick Alléno and Marcel Ravin,” says Danièle Garcelon. “I like her savoir faire and her experience, and I am sure she will meet our client’s high expectations.”

Monte-Carlo Beach has kicked off the season in style

It is an exciting time for the Monte-Carlo Beach. Just last week, they hosted the Chanel runway and Cruise Collection launch. It was “an exceptional start to the season”, says Garcelon. “We are very proud to have Chanel choose us, it was an unexpected opportunity to show who we are, how we work, and to showcase the best profile of Monte-Carlo Beach.”

Monte-Carlo Beach was also recently awarded the first ‘Hotel & Lodge Green’ special prize, a new award recognising it’s zero-plastic and waste recycling policy and its energy and water management.

This year, it welcomes the first ecological, ethical, organic and made in France luxury skincare brand Paoma, an approach that is “completely consistent with that of Monte-Carlo Beach, where taking care of yourself and the environment is a natural part of everyday life,” says Danièle Garcelon.

And Monte-Carlo Beach has just launched its first 100% electric shuttle service between hotels.

Meanwhile, coinciding with the season-opening of Elsa and its new chef, the Monte-Carlo private beach itself is now open to the public.

It all just makes for a very planet-friendly day; a place to enrich the body, mind and soul, and smile gratefully throughout all of it.

Top photo of Melanie Serre by Monaco Life. All other photos by Monte-Carlo SBM