As Honorary President of the Sirha Bocuse d’Or France 2023, what are your expectations?
French cuisine is in motion and it writes itself as a contest which mixes technique and accuracy, it has to be in line with restaurants current concerns. It goes without saying that seasonality is indisputable, it should never be out shadowed by technique. We need all chefs to be in line with our times: they have to consider plant-based food is not just for sides. I’m waiting for the candidates to be aware of current issues and to be in tune with French cuisine’s dynamism.
Technique does not matter more than taste. Your cuisine matches brilliantly technique and creativity, at the service of perfect products. How do you feed your inspiration and what are you expecting from your teams?
For the last three years, I have been working on fermentation, which infinite aromatic palette serves my cuisine and sparks the team’s interest. Hugo Chaise, who knows Naïs Pirollet for instance, trained my teams. We then created a position for a fermentation chef and shaped a dedicated R&D space in Valence. I believe it is necessary to give yourself the tools needed to go beyond a technique, to make it your own and mostly to rethink the limits of our knowledge. My own, and the team’s as well. A restaurant stays productive if it keeps on learning and stays aware of what might not fit. You need to give yourself the means to get better, to correct what isn’t working and this aligns with my expectations. You also need to listen to your teams, to their expectations and propose interesting courses… And for all of this to work, organization is mandatory. The schedule spares time for inspiration, for getaways. Say to go meet producers, learn from them and renew these times-off. We share knowledge and are all ears to our teams needs to be efficient.
Drawing, fashion, and painting have always been part of your ideal of beauty, finesse… What cultural trends are stimulating your creativity these days, what artists or songs do you relate to?
Just like I do in the kitchen, I follow my beacon cultural aspirations. I absolutely missed out on classical music, I never got into it, a regret, maybe (laughter). I prefer Michel Berger or Daniel Balavoine, Depeche Mode, brit-pop, which have helped me escape and dream… I keep up with what’s new, thanks to my 18-year-old son, and I never find it boring! Music is almost a form of training and it fuels dreams we all need back in the kitchen. I grew up amongst artists to whom my dad was acquainted with, I’m thinking theatre, with Jean Piat, for exemple… Back in the days, there was a real connection between artists and food : they would go for a ride, stop at a restaurant like my dad’s and end the night late. When I was little, I had the opportunity to witness some legendary performances, like Bernard Cathelin’s, who learned from Matisse himself. But fragrances are at the core of my inspirations. It’s always been very stimulating, and I happen to share this passion with my friend Francis Kurkdjian who I like to bring with me for my adventures. I’m all for cross-worlds experiences.
In another interview, you mentioned the lack of curiosity that some men had for female chef’s cuisine. Do you consider that part of the past?
I do think so, I sincerely do. A lot of women are working in restaurants nowadays and they create, they spark interest. Men are now curious to know more about this cuisine, to cross their paths and exchange with them. I suffered from it, but some chefs made an effort to go out of their way to reassure me. Things are bound to change, they evolve because we see that this richness is stimulating. I think that’s changing, especially for the women who are becoming more and more known. Anyhow, we came a long way.
Interview by Hannah Benayoun
© Anne-Emmanuelle Thion