If you keep on pursuing perfection in work, success will come to you.
What is important to be a successful cook?
First of all, you have to be passionate. It’s a profession of pleasure and sharing. When you go on the floor, you want to give pleasure. When you prepare a dish and present it, you put your heart into it. The ingredients need to meet high expectations, to be well positioned, to have a pretty color arrangement, to have a prefect flavor and to be cooked to perfection.
You need good training, passion, luck… You need to meet the right people and to work every day. You need many components to succeed.
There are a lot of cooks like me. Some of them, though they may be talented, work in France in the middle of nowhere. You have to try your luck, push forward, get recognized, make demands on your team and be demanding in your work – and finally success will come.
It’s hard to explain this to young people, because they want everything right away.
You shouldn’t think you can just go to a three star restaurant and get what you want. Some people want to make their own creations as soon as they arrive, or they just want to get a better position. Before you reach a great restaurant, you have to go through at least two establishments and acquire the necessary strength.
If one of your young staff is tired and frustrated, what do you do?
I tell them “You’ll rest later when you retire!” (Laughs)
“Now you have to work.” I don’t sleep a lot but when I wake up, I’m still excited about going to work.
It’s hard because there are so many things to learn when you’re young. But one can overcome these difficulties – don’t give up, keep going.
It was the same for me. For me too, there were some tough days. But don’t give up! I started at the bottom too and climbed up.
It’s hard – you have to wake up early, sometimes relations with colleagues are tense, and you have to work long hours. Sometimes things are not going well, but you have to come back the next day and keep going. Still, one day, things are going to be the way you want.
I was surprised in Japan to see the training process for a sushi chef; the apprentice remains seven years without touching the sushi. It’s an example I often give to young people when they want to go straight to plating.
Before you go to plating, cook well, make a good jus, season well – then you can move to plating. But what’s the point of doing plating if you can’t cook? What’s the point of dressing a nice plate if you are not the one who cooked? Learn to cook the meat, make sauces, cook at the right temperature, season well, let the ingredients rest, and make a perfect jus. When you have passed through all these steps, then you can put it in the plate.
You have to go through all the steps. Learn about garnishes, cooking, sauces, fish and meat, and the pantry. And then when your training is over, you can cook properly. Nowadays young people want to accomplish everything as fast as possible, but it’s a pity. They lose part of their training by wanting to go too fast.
Progress through working every day
What are the important points when choosing the establishment you work for?
Try to find the right fit for a young Chef, it’s also part of a chef’s job. It’s a waste to work in a place that does not suit you and then quit with resentment.
If I work with a cook that has different expectations, one of us won’t be happy. Before he starts here, I discuss with this young cook and sometimes I call another chef who will be able to employ him to his full potential, and introduce him.
There was a gifted cook that badly wanted to work with me. But he was so dynamic that I felt he wouldn’t fit the size of the restaurant. I introduced him to the restaurant Laurent, and he is doing very well there – he is now sous-chef.
There is a right place for everyone and it is important to find it.
Do you try many restaurants and other places’ dishes on your week-end?
No. I don’t want to be influenced. I learn from discussion with people and traveling, rather than from magazines or dining at other restaurants. For instance, my encounter with Japan has deeply influenced my cooking style.
There is something to learn everywhere. Talk with other cooks, look at ingredients, and make a lot of trials in the kitchen. And it’s important to build your signature, to create your own style. There are a lot of two and three stars around here, and it is important to preserve your identity among them.
What are your feelings when you’re creating new dishes?
I’m thinking about the next one I shall create.
I never think it’s all done, that there’s nothing more to change. I like making changes. The artichoke, the duck, the scallops and the lobster we make are beautiful dishes. I want to keep on working to make everything even more beautiful. I want to have only amazing dish on the menu.
There are dishes that I would like to improve. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of work, a lot of thought, and a lot of interaction with ingredients.
In cooking you have to seize the moment, grab an idea that is floating around, make some trials, talk about it, and then realize it. You have to try to move forward in each day’s work.