Provencal Chef's Ode to Melons

CAVAILLON, France - Would that 100 regional chefs in France had the same passion for produce as Jean-Jacques Prevot. Anyone familiar with this Provencal capital of the European cantaloupe, could suspect that the famed ''melon de Cavaillon'' would fall into his range of obsession, and so it does.

Until the end of the month this enthusiastic, committed chef is offering a lively all-melon menu, in which he features every part of the fragrant, sweet and juicy fruit.

From the seeds, or pepins, he concocts a luscious, puree-like sauce. The flesh just beneath the rind is turned into a slippery pickle. A gelatin-like sauce adorns the local banana shallot, or echalote de Simiane, which is cooked ever so slowly in red wine sauce.

Perfect slices of melon are sauteed in butter and olive oil, anointed with a touch of balsamic vinegar, and turned into a rosette-like offering, twisting the melon slices with smooth and mild slices of wild boar ham. The accompanying pickles form a perfect foil. Monkfish is stuffed with nuggets of melon, the fish is cooked slightly, then teamed up with a iodine-rich sauce based on the delicate langoustines, or Dublin Bay prawn.

His nougat glace is laced with a confiture of melon, and of course the house aperitif is a refreshing, melon-tinged drink that includes an infusion of dozens of local herbs. He will show you the melon can be eaten raw or cooked, sweet or
salty, hot, cold, or spiced, as an entree or a dessert.

Prevot - whose family has been in the restaurant business in France for several generations - continues to dig deeper and deeper, working with melon growers to create a super-sweet and juicy Cavaillon melon whose sweetness level is inspected with a syringe.

The small restaurant in the center of this old-fashioned farming town is decorated with what must be the world's largest collection of melon memorabilia, including Art Deco forks for spearing cubes of melon, melon artwork, pottery,
posters, and trompe l'oeil works.

At the end of the season Prevot does not close up shop. He turns his attention to scallops, for his mother once ran a restaurant in Brittany where coquilles Saint-Jacques were the specialty.

In the winter, Prevot offers an all-truffle menu. All this would be a lot of trickery if Prevot's passions were not built on the complete understanding of his ingredient, and a willingness to capture the best qualities of each.


Prevot, 353 Avenue de Verdun, 84300 Cavaillon.

Tel: 04-90-71-32-43. Fax: 04-90-71-97-05.

Credit cards: American Express, Visa.

Closed Sunday dinner and Monday. Open for Sunday lunch from September to July.

All-melon menu from 295 to 360 francs, including service but not wine. A la carte, 280 to 360 francs.