Anne-Sophie Pic is on a roll. Recently becoming the world's most decorated female chef, she's a force to be reckoned both at home in France and around the world. With eight Michelin stars across five restaurants spanning Valence, Paris, Switzerland and London, her modern French cooking knows no bounds.
Pic's French culinary heritage and savoir-faire are rooted in three generations of chefs, each of which has picked up three Michelin stars. Despite starting out later in the profession and being self-taught her profound knowledge, sensitivity and passion meant it was only a matter of time until she joined their ranks. Pic is the only woman in France in 50 years to hold three Michelin stars.
Now Anne Sophie Pic brings her formidable talent and experience to S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2019/20 as she steps into the role of mentor to Alexandre Alves Pereira, the winner of the North-Western Europe regional final, whom she will nurture and develop up until the Grand Finale in May 2020 in Milan, where gold would mean another crowning victory.
Berlingots tomate green zebra asperule odorante ©Jean-Francois-Mallet
Fine Dining Lovers had the chance to speak with Anne-Sophie Pic about her ambitions and her role as mentor:
You recently earned a second Michelin star for La Dame de Pic in London. How did you feel when you learnt that you would become the most decorated female chef in the world?
It's quite a responsibility ... Vis-à-vis my teams, the people with whom we work! But I think it's got to remain light-hearted. Winning a star is fun ... a reward for a job done well. Inevitably this leads to other things, but for now, I can only see the positive: the team's motivation multiplying tenfold! But I don't want to become obsessed with stars. It's not my thing at all!
You will be Alexandre Alves Pereira's mentor in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition. What importance do you place on training and the passing on of knowledge?
This is something I would have liked to benefit from. When I started in the business, I had the help of my father, who unfortunately left us too early (Pic's chef father died when she was just 23 years old), and then that of the chefs who worked with him, but the organization of these competitions and the promotions within the guides create proximity with the chefs and that can reassure. The experience of others is always used even if it doesn't resonate. When we are young we ask ourselves a lot of questions, we can listen to what others tell us, or ignore it, but it is important to have access. I really like this role with young people because it is obvious that it is they who will make things happen. Beyond the transmission of cooking methods, I think that transferring values is also essential. We are all a summary of what we have received.
Les Berlingots ©Alexandre-Bienfait
For that reason, don't you think it's a bit complicated for a young chef to find his/her identity when they receive so much advice from the older generation?
As I am a self-taught chef, I have always had great freedom of action while being aware that I was very constrained by my lack of experience. So I do not really know about this outside influence. But for the younger generation, I think the most important thing is to be yourself.
Twenty years ago, we toured the established restaurants and then settled down, and the proposed cooking reflected these different experiences. It is still the case today, we start with something with which we are comfortable, but over time we come away and we become oneself!
It is almost impossible to know immediately who is in the kitchen. You have to stay open and then select what you want to keep. You have to cultivate your intuitions. The luck young chefs have today is that the image of cooking has changed a lot in recent years. Thanks to the competitions and the mediatization of the kitchen, he/she sometimes passes from the craft to the art and it is really a good thing for them!
Homard Fruits Rouges ©Jean-Francois-Mallet
What are your goals and aspirations?
I am a very simple person and my dream is to always retain reality, to find balance in my life, both personally and professionally. This point is still unstable and my daily struggle is to make it more stable while continuing to perform well and especially to please myself. But somehow, this imbalance is that fact that I still have dreams and adrenaline to move forward.