- La Chef
A CULINARY BALANCING ACT
An unconventional background
Even though I am a granddaughter and daughter of chefs, it was never my intention to enter the profession. I had chosen another path, until one day, business degree in hand, I realised that my rightful place was by my father's side. I had the pleasure of spending two months in the kitchen with him before he was suddenly taken from us. After that, it took several years before I could bring myself to go back into the family kitchen.
To understand my cooking, it is important to know this chapter of my story. I'm a self-taught chef who learned through practice, at an age when those who are ready to enter the profession already have a wealth of experience behind them.
I therefore came into cooking armed with just my senses of smell and taste. When I was a girl I breathed the aromas that came from my father's kitchen, and when I began cooking professionally I had only my intuition and my emotions to help put my dishes together. Paradoxically, this gave me an immense degree of freedom to pair flavours, create my own style, and seek balance and precision in every little detail. It also gave me the desire to keep going further and to keep pushing the boundaries of my knowledge.
An ever-changing cuisine
I am, by nature, always moving. I am on a perpetual quest to bring flavours together in novel and complex ways. I enjoy finding flavours that don't go well with others – bitter, sour, salty, roasted, smoked – to try and tame them. I work with unloved or neglected ingredients, like beetroot, turnip and cabbage. I try to look at ingredients in their entirety so I can explore all of their possible uses in the kitchen. Instead of cinnamon sticks, I prefer cinnamon leaves for example.
I constantly revamp my ingredients, my cooking methods and my techniques to give my guests a powerful and unexpected gastronomic experience. I use coconut as a natural container when braising scallops. I like to use coffee, tea and cocoa nibs as seasoning. I flavour my dashi broths naturally. My meats tend to be smoked, my butters infused. In short, I play with any technique that allows me to push the aromatic complexity of my dishes.
For me, dishes are living creations and eating is not a linear process. Each mouthful should create a different taste sensation - sometimes powerful, sometimes delicate, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter... But this should not be so forced as to render the dish unreadable, because I want my guests to be able to appreciate the notes that each and every ingredient brings.
My permanent quest for perfection means I am constantly tweaking my creations, reinventing some while abandoning others so I can revisit them later. There's no such thing as routine in my culinary world! There is however a sense of permanence in this movement - it's a search for balance, for complexity of flavour but also finesse. I believe that balance is achieved when the aromatic power of my dishes coexists in harmony with the delicacy in how they are expressed.
For me, cooking is a way to see and be present in the world, to express a heightened sensitivity, and to try and create, through its ephemeral nature, a unique and unforgettable tasting experience.