A satisfying, delicious lunch for 300 to 400 calories is not impossible at the hands of Executive Chef Marius Blin.
“We want to offer great tasting meals with low calories, a meal that would fill you up and not just a green salad with a squeeze of lemon,” says Executive Chef Marius Blin about the De-Light menu at Estérel at the Sofitel LA at Beverly Hills. The chef has succeeded where many others have gone before without coming close to the flavor and beauty of his dishes. The transformational menu is inspired by a 50-year French Thalassa concept of mind and body well-being with water therapy practiced in several international Sofitel locations.
It’s also an idea requested by customers. Blin reports that business guests who stay up to 120 days a year want and need healthier options for room service. He delivers by extracting the most flavor from each calorie and is still creating new options.
A recent sample menu: golden tomato gaspacho 30 Cal, pink beet salad with grapefruit 72 Cal, halibut, compressed basil watermelon, mache, sangria reduction 119 Cal, and silken panna cotta, Grand Marnier macerated berries 48 Cal; total only 268 calories!
Blin researches constantly to find foods that fit into the low calorie and nutritional goals of his lunches. He found seafood, shrimp and chicken to be the lowest per ounce in calories for protein. He found a zero percent fromage blanc in France but has since sources from Bellwether Farms in northern California.
The 30 minute four-course lunch costs $24.
Chef Blin was raised in Normandy, France, adored his grandmother’s garden-fresh cooking and garnered culinary skills under French master chefs. He also worked in London and Texas before moving to California. He’s been at the helm of Sofitel LA’s kitchens since 2002.
The Sofitel’s ambiance is sleek, hip and modern. The lobby is animated with black and white photography by Frank Worth, a friend to many of his subjects. The gallery of old Hollywood glamour encompasses a fetching young Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant and Kim Novak dancing and a clowning Bob Hope with a menacing Marlon Brando.
The duvets, pillows and other accoutrements that make sleeping here a sumptuous pleasure are available to purchase. The mattress is topped with a feather bed for consummate cushioning described in the helpful brochure as “soft cocooning”.
Interview with Chef Blin
1st cooking or food-related memory:
- My best memory is my grandmother's cooking, seeing her give all the love she had into making the family meals. I remember going to the garden with her to pick the vegetables and getting in trouble for stepping on rows of salads deep in the ground. To this day I can smell and see the dishes she used to make. And no, she never shared her recipes !
What first interested you in the hospitality industry?
- The food and what it represents: friends and family getting together around a good meal to have a great time. Memories that our business creates.
What was your first hospitality job?
- I was working in a very good restaurant in my home town called La Butte aux Cerfs. I was an apprentice (at best) for the summer season. Without any experience I was probably more of a drag than help. But it taught me a lot about the industry—commitment, dedication, respect, discipline, how exciting the business can be and how hard it was.
What do you like best about being a chef?
- The reward you get when you see your guests having a great time, the creative side of it of course. Most of all, the fact that you always learn. We are lucky to be in a business that never stops. There is always a new technique, a different way to cook, a new vegetable or fruit from around the world. Today's media has broadened everyone's horizon.
If not a chef, what would you be?
- Probably working in a creative industry. Chefs always come up with lots of ideas. We like to work under pressure but also tend to change our minds a lot.
How/when did you move from France to California?
- I moved from France to Texas in 1997, then to California in 2002. Originally I was going to work one summer season at a resort and conference center in Horseshoe Bay Texas, recommended to me by a co-worker from Guy Savoy's restaurant in Paris. I was in charge of the French fine dining room, had a great time and then never left.
How would you compare the food scene in Los Angeles to France or London?
- It would be hard to compare. I think France or London have stronger roots founded on the classics, in the origins of the country and the products. On the other end Los Angeles embraces all of the different cultures and diversity that makes the city so different from anywhere else.
How would you compare food products in terms of quality and availability?
- You would have asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have said, there is nothing to compare. But an amazing thing has been the evolution of the products, the farmers markets, the farmers and their dedication. Some of those now easily compete with European counterpart.
It is also nice to see our guests themselves are becoming more and more savvy about food. The food shows on TV allow us to create dishes that we might have never been able to do or sell before.
What are some ways you keep the calorie count low the De-Light menu?
- Pick what's in season and you will find fruits or vegetables full of flavor that don't need much more to be tasty. Use more fish and seafood which contain fewer calories than meat. Find a substitute like tofu, 0% fromage blanc. We are lucky to be in California and in a health-conscious city so a lot of low calorie products are at places like Whole Foods among others. Finally, if you are really serious about it, banish oil, butter, sugar. And stick to one serving for each course. Don’t go back for more. You can always be like me—a bit more curious when reading labels.
- Riding my motorcycle.
- Daddy of a cute little girl and in love.
- Lately I would say Tar & Roses in Santa Monica
Favorite Dish to eat:
- Foie gras two or three times a year, but we are in California so it’s not much of an option anymore.
Favorite Junk Food:
-Not sure Nutella is junk food but it’s definitely a favorite.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
-I used to work at l'Elysee, the French president's house.
What’s your go-to drink?
-OJ. I know boring. I obviously enjoy great wines and a nice cold beer at the end of the week.
What do you consider your most important accomplishment?
-Moving to Texas and being in charge of a French fine dining room while barely speaking English.