What’s your earliest memory of being interested in food?
I think it came naturally, I was always around my mum, and my Great-aunt Suzanne, helping, being curious, collecting what was needed for lunch or dinner, going shopping, with my hand-written list, which most of the time I had to give to people as I was a bit small to reach the shelves. Fun memories though!
Are there any specific flavours or food memories from your childhood growing up in France that you try and recreate in your cooking today?
Yes there are quite a few. Mainly ones from the regionIam from. Favourites include my Aunt Suzanne’s cake, my Mum’s tartes aux pommes, also roasted pheasant, and a couple of the classics, many which are included in my previous book, TheFrench Brasserie Cookbook (Duncan Baird). My lastbook, ‘Revolutionary French Cooking’, however, sees me take more of what we do in our restaurant and adapt the recipes for home cooking and a lighter palate.
Having lived and worked as a chef in the UK for a number of years how has the British landscape and British ingredients affected your culinary style?
A lot! Since working for the Roux brothers in the late 1970s, I understood that Britain had so much to offer, with such beautiful ingredients and produce. Now I am pleased to say that 80% of our menu is devoted to British produce, all of which changes each season. Ihave also seen how people now care much more about the origin, welfare and ethics of their food, which makes a big difference. AndI’msure all those programs about cooking are helping as well!
What kind of experience do you try and create for your guests at your Michelin starred restaurant, The Vineyard in Stockcross?
In the Vineyard, we work essentially with seasons, which means we do change the menu quite often. But we also offer our wine-matching menu, which is our specialty, as we own a vineyard in California — the famous Peter Michael Winery.I think that we present a very elegant way of dining and tasting with a unique experience from the sommelier who will take you on a lovely voyage around the world of wine. It isspecial and unique. We have gained a big following as people like the idea of making their own menu.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Many! Working in Michelin starred restaurants was a real eye opener, very hard but you are taught how to be focussed, to have a proper work ethic, discipline etc. It also teaches you about produce and how to make the best of it in a very consistent way. It took me to a much higher level and I was rewarded with my own Michelin star, in four different restaurants.Ialso try to pass on all my knowledge as much as possible.
Three years ago, when I launched my first book, that was a very special to me. Now with the second being published in May, I never thought I would do that! It has been a long hard journey, but there are so many people who have helped me on the way. My wife Claire is a big part of that. I am so proud.
What can readers expect from your new book, Revolutionary French Cooking?
This one is a little more challenging, I have adapted the way in which we work in the restaurant so that they are approachable for the home cook. The recipes need no fancy utensils such aswater baths, vacuum pack machines etc but show how to recreate thesetechniques in a home kitchen and achieve the sameresults. It will be fun for people who love entertaining and love cooking. We made sure that this book was well puttogether anduser-friendly.
While your previous book, French Brasserie Cookbook, gave readers an insight to traditional French cooking, Revolutionary French Cooking sees you stepping in a new direction towards contemporary French cuisine. What’s the reason for the change?
For a long time nowIhave been cooking in a morerelaxed way, using the seasons and prime ingredients and naturally putting them together to create tasty, colourful, light and elegant food, served in a very simple way. ThenIrealised this was the basis of French cooking, which is also very versatile and uses superb regional produce, which I think people have forgotten. With the emergence of interest in Spain and Scandinavian as culinary destinations over the last 10 to 12 years, France has been a bit forgotten. However, French cooking is changing and I wanted to show that in this new book, hence the reason of the title!
It’s foreword is by the master of modern cuisine, Heston Blumenthal. Did you take inspiration from his work for this new step in a modernist direction?
Heston is a good friend and has always appreciated my cooking from my time at Harvey’s in Bristol where he used to visit whenIwas there. We know each other well butIalso very much like the way he approaches British cooking, not only by using ancient recipes and turning them into modern icons but also by thinking of ways which would make British chefs realise the potential oftheir ownregions and its ingredients, produce and of course talent. His style is unique and I could not do what he does. He has no barrier and is an autodidact! I have great admiration for him.