When I was a kid I loved riding a motorcycle and wanted to be a mechanic.
But I felt it was too dirty for me and I was endangering my life on a bike. Then for a short period I wanted to be a jockey because I was skinny and lightweight and I had a family friend who had a race horse. But by 14, it was clear that my path was in the kitchen and I started in one of the best restaurants in the region.
2-What was your first job in food?
Besides working in the kitchen for my grandmother peeling vegetables for the family meals, my first job in a professional kitchen was plucking wild birds in the wine cellar of the 2-star restaurant Nandron where I was a beginner apprentice, at 14 years old. There I learned how to cook by being in charge of the staff meal for the team. It was my first big responsibility.
3-What’s your favorite thing about being a chef?
The pleasure of doing the same task and becoming a perfectionist at it, the excitement of the seasons and the creativity they inspire and the daily pressure and challenges we share with the team in order to achieve perfection. It’s the satisfaction of finding the perfect balance in a dish and the collaborative work it takes to accomplish it, talking with my other chefs and sharing our creativity on the food we want to do together. And it’s the gratification you get from the pleasure you give to people from different walks of life – young and old, creative, powerful and the most humble.
4-Did you have an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a chef?
From the beginning I knew that I had to be a very good cook in order to become a great chef one day. When I was 21 years old I was sent to Copenhagen to work for Roger Vergé and at that point, I was getting ready to be a chef. When I was given the responsibility to represent one of the top chefs of France with his cuisine, I had that “a-ha” moment and kept growing into the position.
5-Best advice you ever got?
I was in Washington DC and Chef Jean-Louis Palladin advised me to move to NYC and he helped me find a job here.
6-What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Every Friday at the farm where I grew up, we slaughtered chicken for the farmers’ market and every Friday night we made a big flat “omelette” with the blood from the chicken, with vinegar, shallot, herbs and crème fraiche inside. It was strange, it was nutritious, but delicious.
And when you grow up as a kid eating that, you’re pretty much ready to eat anything.
7-Your favorite ingredient.
My favorite ingredient is avocado. I can eat one every day like a fruit.
8-The ingredient that turns you off the most.
Banana. I can never adjust to the taste or texture.
9-Your favorite tool.
A good peeler. It’s underrated and very useful. The perfect peeler is a tool of choice.
10-What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not cooking.
I’m social and I like to be active. I do sports like golf when I can. I enjoy cultural/artistic events and of course, spend time with my family.
11-What would you like to do before you get too old to do it.
Climb Mont Blanc and get myself the Aston Martin DB11.
12-Tell us a deep dark secret (doesn’t have to be food related).
I love gummy bears, jelly beans and all chewy junk.
13-How do you deal with the stress?
Stress has always been part of the job on a daily basis but there’s the good stress and the bad stress. I always try to find a balance with my family and my friends and my team. The only way to destress is to have people who care for you and help you go through it.
14-Tell us a funny story from the kitchen (VIDEO). We’ll make a date.
I was in charge of feeding 500 very important people on a flight to Morocco and between my kitchen and the plane we lost the driver and the truck with all the food. It was funny afterwards, but not during.
15-Who would you like to meet?
Thomas Jefferson’s family and thank them for having an ancestor who brought the love for French wine and culture to the U.S.
16-Who would you like to cook for?
My biggest dream was to cook for all of my mentors – Roger Verge, Michel Guerard, Paul Bocuse and Georges Blanc. Luckily, I was able to host all of them at DANIEL in 1999 for a gala in their honor, and it will remain a highlight of my professional life.
17-What was the hardest thing for you to learn? Or is there something you just can’t get right?
How to say no. When you’re in the hospitality business, you have a desire to please everyone. But to run a successful business and maintain your personal life, at some point you need to learn what to commit to and protect your personal life.
18-Is there some little something you do for your family to make up for the time you’re not with them?
Breakfast is our most important ritual thing. Every day that I am in NYC, I make sure to spend my morning with my family and share our time together.
19-How did becoming a chef change your life? Your direction.
From a humble town near Lyon, I ended up cooking and meeting the most influential, powerful, creative, artistic, interesting people here in New York City, this cultural gastronomic capital.
20-Please give us a cooking tip that people might not know like “adding a little bit of oil to butter so it doesn’t burn.
Temper your roast before you cook it.