Tucking into the honey lamb stew of La Fruitiere restaurant in Val d'Isere, a curious diner might well wonder how this culinary feat is possible high on the slopes of a top French ski resort.
The answer is: with the help of computers.
La Fruitiere sits at about 2,400 meters above sea level next to the OK piste at La Daille. In French, La Fruitiere means the place where fruits of labour are stored.
The restaurant serves elaborate dishes for lunch – its only service – with little staff involvement despite the complexity of its recipes, because much of the work is done at night by computer-controlled ovens.
Top items on the menu include chicken breast with cardamom sauce, deep fried roblochon served on wooden sticks and a cheese plateau made up of local Beaufort, Bleu and Tomme.
Cooking by remote control.
The chef remotely controls his kitchen from his office down in the French ski resort via the internet. Since the ovens are connected by broadband, he can change his recipes at any time.
When employees arrive at 9 am with the first gondola, the confits de canard (duck) has been roasted to perfection, the veal shanks basted and the Savoyarde potee – a soup with sausages and white wine – has completed its slow simmer.
"Technology reduces the stress of making elaborate cuisine at high altitude," says the restaurant's owner Luc Reversade, a 58-year-old former ski instructor turned entrepreneur.
The computers also cut staff bills by 20-30 percent, without them, employees would have to sleep on the premises. Instead, they ski or snowboard to the restaurant every morning.
Today, it is where holidaymakers meet up to reward themselves after a morning of thigh-burning action on the piste. The restaurant is so popular it is best to reserve ahead of lunch.