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The Fifth Floor Goes to Gascony


Chef Laurent Manrique is getting back to his roots.

Chefs get excited about things: “The Bay Area is almost the same latitude and longitude!” Laurent Manrique, the chef of Aqua and now consultant to the Fifth Floor, was telling me the other day, referring to the likeness of our geography to his native homeland, the Gascony region of France. They have a wine country (OK, so theirs is Bordeaux, one of the most famous wine regions in the world), forest, mountains (OK, theirs is the Pyrenees), and an ocean in close proximity—and so do we!

Manrique, who first brought his take on the cuisine of Gascony to Campton Place before he was hired to be the chef of Aqua, is at it again. But this time, he’s doing it at the Fifth Floor, which, since the departure of chef Melissa Perello, has had a remodel in the works. Starting in February, the Fifth Floor will have its second coming out, with Manrique leading the way. (Emily Wines, the sommelier, will remain.)

Manrique has hired Jennie Lorenzo to be his executive chef to execute his vision (she’s been in Gascony for a month and a half, staging at different restaurants): Expect dishes like chestnut soup with poultry “quenelles,” proscuitto and pistachio; cured sea scallops served with caviar; poached chicken with foie gras stuffing, broth and herbed vermicelli. Lorenzo, who’s worked at many fine dining restaurants, worked beneath chef Laurent Gras when the Fifth Floor really was in the limelight.

If you ask me, the fact that Lorenzo is a woman might be more exciting than the Bay Area’s geographical similarities to Gascony. I don’t want to make gender an issue (and nor does Hillary, apparently), but in a town with so few young female chefs, it was sad to see Perello go. It’s nice to see a fresh face, even if she's not the big name. Expect to see Lorenzo (wo)manning the stoves starting next month.