What made you choose cooking as a career and how did your career progress?
My mother was an inspired cook. She always wanted to become a chef as her father and grandfather were, but in the 60s, a woman in France was not welcome in professional kitchens. So she married my father and cooked for him and our family friends every Saturday night. Her passion for cooking is the reason why I am a chef today. However, that wasn’t always my dream. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a disc jockey - but my father strongly encouraged me to change my mind because he thought there was no future in the entertainment business.
What’s your signature style of cuisine and how has it evolved over the years?
I was trained in classic French cuisine. When I moved to the US nearly 20 years ago, my mind was opened to world cuisine. Until that point I had no idea that Italian could be fine dining and had never tasted real Thai food before.
Part of the reason my job as Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton is so exciting and enjoyable is variety. Everyday brings a different challenge. From spending time with Eric Ripert and ensuring that his vision is religiously followed in Blue to organising a traditional Indian wedding banquet to selecting just the right beef for our insanely popular Barjack sliders, I am constantly learning and growing.
Do you cook at home? If so, what do you like to cook?
Yes, I not only cook at home but also do most of the grocery shopping as I get inspired by selecting the products first. My wife is from Ecuador so I try to please her by using Latin American cuisine influences (ceviche, gazpacho, paella). I also want my two boys to get the same culinary education that I received in France with my mother. Several times a week, we cook together and sit down at a properly set table with cloths, etc. and a three course menu. We prepare simple food with protein as the star, lots of vegetables with light or no sauce. It’s
important that we spend quality family time over good food; no fast food, no eating at different times. That respect for the connections formed over food is the foundation for the full benefits good cooking can bring.
What’s your favourite restaurant on-island (other than your own!) and why?
I really respect what Jurgen does at Icoa. His business is open for breakfast and lunch, so not a lot of money to play with, but his menu is so innovative. He uses local products with creativity; his three-course $20 lunch menu is such a bargain. I also enjoy The Brassiere and Michael’s Genuine. During season, I visit the Cracked Conch, and you just can’t beat dinner on the terrace
at Morgan’s Harbour…simply awesome.
What’s your favourite restaurant anywhere in the world and why?
My mother’s living room back in France, where she is always have ready for me to enjoy her Braised Rabbit with Mustard sauce, Skate and Brown Butter, Veal “Blanquette”, Roasted Quail and Raisin Sauce…….
Do you watch TV chefs? If so, who is your favourite and why?
Does a financial director watch a show at home about how to read P&L statement? I do not believe so; it’s the same for me. I do no like that many of these shows are based on how fast can you cook something. Cooking great food takes time. In the competition shows, most of the time the participants are rushed to accomplish something that will not taste or look good as they were not given enough time to plan or to execute. I do like shows that take the time to show where the chefs get their inspiration. Our friend Eric Ripert’s show, Avec Eric, excels in this area.
Do you have a particular favourite cookery book? If so, which one?
When I first moved to the US, I was really inspired by Charlie Trotter’s cookbook collection. At that time he was so innovative using herb oil, vegetable juice reduction and heirloom produce. In 2001, when I opened The Ritz-Carlton, SarasotaI wanted to make sure that our banquet menu featured a strong Latin tropical flavour so I became a fan of Douglas Rodriguez’s books. They are very simple recipes to follow but have incredible flavours. Try his Horseradish Parsley Mojo recipe on any grilled meat to see what I mean! Every self proclaimed foodie should own the Cooks Bible, “Larousse Gastronomique” which is essentially a dictionary of all the classical French recipes you will need and the history behind them. And yes, it is available in English!