A chef is like an artist. He paints nature’s vitality on a plate with the ingredients of the south of France

Ristorante Mirazur
Mauro Colagreco
Ristorante Mirazur Mauro Colagreco

Ristorante Mirazur Mauro Colagreco

Cooking to show affection, learned from his grandmother

You are from Argentina, correct?

Mr. Colagreco :
Yes, I was born in a city called La Plata, which is the capital of Buenos Aires Province. I used to catch fishes near the huge river, the La Plata River. That’s why I still love the waterfront and have gotten away to the water on holidays ever since I was young. I love mountains but I feel my heart longs to be close to water.

I heard that the reason you became interested in cooking is because of something you experienced in your childhood.

Mr. Colagreco :
Yes, I think I was affected by my grandmother. My grandparents used to live in the countryside, about 100 km away from the city I was born in. On someone’s birthday or New Year’s Day, a lot of our relatives always gathered at my grandparents home. My grandmother cooked food for everybody during our stay. My grandmother was such a loving person and she wanted to always share her affection with people. Cooking was one of the ways she did that.

She didn’t simply cook food. Those relatives were at different ages, woke up at different times, and had different tastes. So she adapted for each one of us and cooked food for us all. That was how my grandmother cooked.

Also, my grandfather grew tomatoes and plums in his garden so we picked them to made sauce or jam. We harvested them in season and stewed them to preserve until the next year.

My grandmother is originally from Bilbao, in Spain. She moved to Argentina when she was two years old. My grandfather was Italian so the food she cooked was mostly Italian food. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away when I was 14 so I was not able to cook together with her but I still remember the taste of the tomato sauce ravioli and dumplings. I still have those happy memories so I love cooking breakfast for my five year-old son.

The taste of your memories has been passed down to your son. Did you start your career in the food industry soon after?

Mr. Colagreco :
It was 1998, and I was 20 years old when I started my career as a professional chef. I studied literature in high school and majored in economy for two years at a university in Argentina. My father was an accountant so I needed to take over his business but I couldn’t find my passion in those subjects. When I was 23, I decided to go to a culinary college in La Rochelle in southwest France. I was supposed to stay in France for only three years but this experience changed my life. I didn’t think I would be in France for 18 years at that time.

Ristorante Mirazur Mauro Colagreco

Enchanted by chef Loiseau

So what made you stay in France?

Mr. Colagreco :
After one year at the culinary college passed, I did my apprenticeship with La Cote  d’Or ‘s chef, Bernard Loiseau, for four months. On the morning of the final day of my apprenticeship, Chef Bernard asked me what I wanted to do after. I said “I will go back to the culinary college and continue my study.” Then he told me before the lunch service that there was a position for me. So I decided to stay in the restaurant. I worked until his final day.

Chef Bernard was a professional of sauce making. He was the first person who started using classic sauces with vegetable puree to add an accent. Using parsley, garlic, and sometimes carrots or beets to make it sweeten the puree was a very fresh discovery for me.

Usually we use classic ingredients such as Bresse Gauloise or foie gras, but thanks to the accent from the puree, the sauce became very fresh tasting, better than the traditional sauce and I was amazed by the taste.

I cooked food for Bernard and his family every day outside the restaurant so they were very close to me. I still remember how much he liked simple but perfect dishes. For example, he liked boiled asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.

You were very close to Chef Bernard Loiseau. How was he before he passed away?

Mr. Colagreco :
The restaurant scores for the Gault et Millau dropped and I remember he was very nervous about people saying his restaurant might lose a Michelin star. I thought he was irritated and anxious. He was trying to motivate staff but he was also confused as to what was good or bad. When I think back now, he probably created a virtual image of himself which as a great chef who never loses. He was like an actor who created a different character of himself and he was not able to get away from it. His death was such a shocking event for me. I was too sad to step into the town of Saulieu, where his restaurant was located, for ten years after his death.

His death was widely reported by the media in Japan. It was really a sudden and shocking event. It must have been such a hard experience for you. You surely learned a lot from him, though?

Mr. Colagreco :
It was the first fine dining establishment I worked at. I learned so many things from him, including the basics. I liked him very much as a human being. I still remember him peeling asparagus skins in the kitchen. It was such a devastating experience but through it, I was able to truly understand that you aren’t able to win forever in life, even if you won first prize once. Glory is such a fragile thing.

You earned a Michelin two stars and won third place in the World’s Best Restaurants this year. Is there anything else you think is important for you after this kind of glory?

Mr. Colagreco :
Instead of creating a virtual image of myself, I think it is important to be myself. You need to be happy to be able to cook. You need to feel happy to create and serve what you cook. I appreciate prizes and honor but you shouldn’t work for only those things. It’s because you will become a different person.

I feel happy when I realize I have improved daily, and am able to cook something special. When my guests are happy, I feel happy. That’s the important moment. When I don’t feel this anymore, it’s time I quit.

Ristorante Mirazur Mauro Colagreco

Ristorante Mirazur

Inquiry
+33 4 92 41 86 86
Access
30 Avenue Aristide Briand, 06500 Menton, France
About a 20-minute walk from Menton Garavan Station
Hours
12:15 - 14:00

19:15 - 22:00
Closed
Mondays and Tuesdays