Born in Marseilles, overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, Passedat has always been influenced by the landscape and produce of his region, and he draws inspiration from the abundance of local seafood, sun-ripened vegetables, fragrant herbs, and sumptuous wines. In his new book, the renowned chef shares80easy-to-prepare classic familyrecipesthat celebrate fresh ingredients from the south of France.Appetizers include artichokesen barigoule, aubegine with goat cheese, or stuffed shellfish. For the main course, choose from red onionpissaladière, Camargue black rice paella, or bouilleabaisse. Desserts range from roasted figs or poached apricots to Menton lemon tart or licorice soufflé. Here Passedat divulges his tips and tricks garnered over nearly four decades in the kitchen along with suggested wine pairings for each dish. Photographs of his beautifully prepared recipes are complemented by the spectacular land- and seascapes of the south of France—rolling vineyards, olive groves, shady terraces, bustling summer markets, and medieval towns aglow in the warm golden light of afternoon sun.
What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
I remember the Sunday lunches we used to have at my Aunt Nia’s house when I was a child; the magnificent fish dishes and their pan drippings that I savored. Then, when I was twelve, my parents took me for a lunch cooked by chef Alain Chapel. It shook my emotions and my taste buds. I can still vividly recall the flavor of the crayfish Sauternes sauce. On that day, I knew that I wanted to become a chef and that one day I would have three stars.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
The Mediterranean Sea, which I see every day at Petit Nice.
Describe your culinary style…
The cuisine at Petit Nice is one of depth, offering a slow journey, in stages, into the abyss in order to best discover forgotten or long-lost seafood dishes that reflect the Mediterranean and its maritime heritage. My culinary style is a perpetual search for that which is refined, essential. The Mediterranean is my oceanic garden. Personally, when I cook for friends, I like to prepare traditional family recipes, centered on dishes from deep within the hinterland of Provence.
What would you say was the main inspiration for your new cookery book?
I wanted to share my family’s recipes with my fans.
What do you think makes FrenchMediterraneancuisine sosuccessful?
The success of Mediterranean cuisine is to associate the principles of the ancient Cretan diet (which fosters good health and digestion) with a sunny cooking style. Mediterranean cooking comes from a rich, sumptuous region that is appreciated around the world.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
Olive oil, of course! Vegetables are also indispensable, with a strong preference for tomatoes, bay leaves, and sage not to mention fish, my Mediterranean treasures. Over the course of one year, I cook with more than 65 different species of fish at Petit Nice.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at your restaurant?
At Petit Nice, I endeavour to take my guests on a slow journey in stages into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, with cuisine dedicated to flavors of the ocean. I offer them a regional cuisine, where the fish they’re served has been caught out front, no further than the waters on the horizon outside.
At Môle Passedat (my restaurant at Marseilles’s MuCEM art museum), I offer a more accessible cuisine, a stroll along the edge of the Mediterranean bassin.In each of my restaurants, my values are the same: sharing, enjoyment, and emotion.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
Being awarded my 3rd Michelin star in 2008; it was the first time a restaurant in Marseilles has obtained this honor.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
None. Everyone should make their own way and face the obstacles, mistakes, and experiences they’ll come across on the way, guided by their own desire and drive.
What’s next for you/What projects do you have lined up?
Albertine! My new restaurant at the Docks in Marseilles, which opens in late April 2016.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate; I like it dark, raw, and aromatic. Last year I had the pleasure of making my very own chocolate, which I named Abysse Noir (available from the chef’s online store: http://www.passedat.fr/boutique/en/).
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Find out more aboutChef Passédat’s culinary career
Chef Passédat’s responses translated by Kate Mascaro.