FOURty Seconds with Arnaud Donckele

18 Nov 2016
2 min read
In celebration of Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France FOUR catches up with the celebrated head chef of La Vague d’Or in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera, Arnaud Donckele to find out about this year’s festival.

What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?

My father was a caterer, with a passion for cuisine and fascination for famous chefs. I grew up reading cookbooks and biographies on famous chefs (Roger Vergé, Alain Chapel, the Troisgros saga). At the age of 12 I started working alongside my dad and became as passionate as him about gastronomy. My childhood memories take me back to our family’s vegetable garden and authentic produce, which continue to inspire my work today.

What, or who, would you say has inspired your cooking the most?

There are a long list of chefs who have inspired my cooking: Ducasse, Nomicos and Guérard mainly, but also Olivier Roellinger, Roger Vergé, Alain Chapel, the Troisgros saga. and many more!

Describe your culinary style…

I would say that I aim to create a culinary journey that is both bucolic and elegant. The art of cooking is knowing how to reveal flavours, and to then fittingly associate them in order to further amplify them.

What would you say is the main focus/concept for your menu at the award-winning, La Vague d’Or?

The menu at La Vague d’Or is an expression of my creative freedom and an exploration of the flavours of the Provençal countryside.

What do you think makes a restaurant or menu so successful?

I find the staff, an excellent staff, are essential to a restaurant’s success. They determine the attitude and ambiance of a restaurant. It also helps to have a lovely location.

What are your most indispensable ingredients?

Love. One must have a genuine love of food and a desire to give guests the absolute best, and a love to continuously do our best. This must be felt in each and every dish.

What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at this year’s St-Barth Gourmet Festival?

I would love for all the guests of the festival to feel the passion I have for gastronomy through my dishes.

Can you give us any hints at menu highlights?

The menu is created as a crescendo, with each dish adding an additional layer of surprise. As for the ingredients that can be expected, we will see fresh citrus fruits and Provençal herbs.

What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

It was one evening on the terrace of La Vague d’Or when at the end of her meal, a woman was so overcome by emotion that she burst into tears. It was truly unforgettable.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?

To stay true to who you are, and find out exactly who that is.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Bread. I love bread!

What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?

I would like to try Bernard Pacaud’s L’Ambroisie in Paris.

Find out more about the culinary career of Arnaud