15 Mar. 2019
Named Best Worker of France (MOF) in 2004 at the early age of 25, the former apprentice is the chef of the kitchens of l’Élysée, where he already worked back in…1997. As loyal as direct, this workhorse is also an ambassador of Designations of origin to the United Nations and spends most of his time promoting the diffusion and transmission of gastronomy, such as in two culinary books of reference.
Your fetish flavour?
I do have a penchant for sourness, which promotes other flavours: the savoury, the bitterness. It balances the sugary in a good way.
The place of gourmandise in your life?
Very important! I am very gourmand, and it shows (laughs). I do not think anyone can practice a food profession without a certain attraction or curiosity to discover new dishes and to taste new flavours.
Your favourite moment of gourmandise?
I have a soft spot for quick bites: this improvised moment between colleagues or friends delights me. If I meet a chef or a maître d’hôtel that is a friend at the market, we stop at the fishery to share some shrimps, open a bottle and so forth. I also enjoy more formal meals, but spontaneity pleases me.
What moves you in pastry?
Pastry chefs are like us (editor’s note: the chefs), they are very gourmand, they are epicureans who love people and life. They impress me by their capacity to create cakes with perfect regularity, day after day. Different to that of the chef, who can call on his intuition, the work of a pastry chef requires high technicality, in which discipline and precision do not leave a room for chance.
Dough, the cornerstone…
True to say that with only a handful of ingredients one can either produce a puff pastry, a brioche or a savoury dough such as the one for pâté en croûte (editor’s note: one of his heavenly sins). They may well form the link between sweet and savoury!
A nice sweet moment at l’Élysée?
In 2015, at l’Élysée, with the filming of the Best Pastry Chef by Philippe Urraca. Then the receiving of the Légion d’Honneur by Paul Bocuse in 1975 from President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. This was a first for a chef and I am sorry not to have been there. For this occasion, Maurice Bernachon (editor’s note: a chocolate maker from a family of pioneers of bean-to-bar for three generations), created the famous Président, a cake decorated with a lacework of chocolate, inspired by the Forêt-noire.
How are desserts selected at l’Élysée?
The President always decides, as he is the one who eats what we prepare on a daily basis! With Fabien Cocheteux, the pastry chef, we take into account both the taste of the President and the season. In summer, we make home-made ice-creams and get our supplies from French producers as much as we can. As a matter of fact, I champion the Semaine du Goût as we, chefs and pastry chefs, must take our share of responsibility in the education of taste, in the respect of seasonality, as well as in nutritional balance.
Any protocol that needs to be respected at the palace?
Service “à la française”, “by the dish” is outdated. The great entremets to be shared, accompanied by a sugar or chocolate piece, are not in the flavour of days. To speed up the rhythm of meals, all of our desserts are served on the plate. The tendency is more towards well-being.
Any specific dessert?
I love simple pastries, with a ‘just” taste, like the Tarte Tatin or the lemon tart. Macaroons by Pierre Hermé conclude a meal very well.
And on the chocolate side?
I love chocolate! Chocolate bars by Sébastien Bouillet are a torment: once started, I cannot stop. I remember some excesses, especially when I worked near Jean-Paul Hévin’s boutique. I used to buy chocolates every week. Awful! Among the dedicated events, I really appreciate the Salon Impérial Chocolat at the Château de Fontainebleau created by Frédéric Cassel.
Any sweet souvenir from childhood?
Having grown up in Paris, the Parisian pudding that we found in all bakeries comes first. It was always good as it was home-made with real eggs. I should also mention crepes, as at home and as a child, we would improvise a convivial and gourmand snack with them in no time.
Cuisine, leçons en pas-à-pas pour les enfants, by Guillaume Gomez, illustrated by Louison at the Éditions du Chêne.