You have to give it your energy every day, all year long – that’s being professional.
Many chefs pursue activities in many directions. But despite numerous requests, I’ve heard you are only taking on activities that you can supervise directly.
I receive requests for consulting or to create new desserts for other restaurants. But I only agree to put my name on work that that I can supervise down to the last detail. I’m so demanding that I can’t stand “approximation”. That’s why I’m not doing consulting for now.
Here at ‘Hôtel Le Bristol Paris’ I’m checking everything from morning to evening. When something isn’t perfect, I won’t stand for it and I won’t allow it.
We can’t disappoint a client who is coming to “Epicure” in search of an emotion. They come for a beautiful journey, and I want to give them a beautiful journey.
You have to put a great amount of love into a plate. And this requires a huge amount of energy and work – it wears you out. It’s really hard to give the same amount of energy, every day, all year round -that’s why it’s good to be a team. I tell my staff that when they pour this amount of energy into a plate, it is transmitted to the clients and give them emotions, so this energy, in time, comes back to us.
You must put in a lot of hours and sacrifice your private life, you need a lot of rigor in order to lead the team.
A lot of work, a lot of luck and some coincidences
Could you give us some tips on how to lead and nurture a team?
If you’re strict with yourself, the team will follow. But you can’t be strict like a machine. Strictness is not synonym of precise process. Even if it’s pretty, if there is no soul to it, the energy is not transmitted.
I found the exact same precision in Japan. I have this rigor in me and I met my match in Japan. I met comrades and felt I was coming home.
Something great came out of my encounter with Japan.
I know the architect Nishizawa, and I presented him with a book about Le Corbusier written by Nick Weber, a client I met when I was in the catering business. A year later I met Nishizawa again and he told me the book inspired him to make a replica of Le Corbusier’s tapestry. My life is made of such coincidences, one encounter leads to another and something comes out of it.
Tell me about your dream.
There are two things I’d like to do. I’d like to make the desserts for Japan Airlines; and second, I’d like to have a “Laurent Jeannin” ice-cream and sherbet brand that would be distributed in combinis –Japanese convenience stores, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I know it’s a crazy dream, but that’s it. I’m serious – I think we could make something simple and delicious and it will be successful.
I don’t feel like doing it in France, I really like Japanese combinis. I’ve been going to Japan for twenty-eight years, and the first thing I do each time I arrive is go to a combini and buy an egg sandwich and an Aquarius. They’re great!
After that I’d like to remain the best pastry chef in palace hotels. If I had a dream in France, it would be to win the lottery and retire, go live in the countryside and make sculptures.
Lastly, could you tell us about the dessert you brought us today?
It’s a Citron givré –frosted lemon. In the past it was served in restaurants or sold in supermarkets. The flesh of the fruit was scooped out, and the pulp and some sherbet were stuffed back into the hollowed lemon peel. I have nice memories of eating it, scraping the last bits off the peel. This piece was born out of the desire to give this dessert a second life in a contemporary style, here, in Hotel Le Bristol Paris. But this time I made a dessert you can eat all the way including the “peel”. It cost 2,300 euros to make the mold in the shape of a lemon, but it was an immediate success. You stuff the emulsion in the mold like a waffle, and when it is sufficiently cold you add the sauce. You can enjoy the gustatory thrill of a fruit-like snow, the texture of a jelly and an herbal flavor.
(Interview, text: Akiko AWA, pictures: Hiroki TAGMA)