In the 2019-2021 edition of SPYC a new award was introduced for Social Responsibility. How do you integrate sustainable practices in your kitchen?
In my opinion, when you are a chef, you should naturally follow this philosophy. Personally, I see it as a whole. I spend most of my time in Valence, where we are fortunate to have a good culture of food and products. All of this sets the tone for what we are going to do in the kitchen. I always favour ethical sourcing and organic farming. I have been rocked by these words since my earliest childhood. My great-grandfather had twelve farms, my grandfather inherited six before opening his restaurant, L’Auberge du Pin, where he received three stars in the Michelin Guide. This is where it all started. At that time, there was already a very virtuous way of working, the farm was still behind the restaurant.
How will you challenge Alexandre Alves Pereira as his mentor?
It's been over a year since I tasted his dish in the French final so I had to start from scratch in order to guide him. The challenge is to learn the history of his dish, what message he wants to convey, I want to see if there is enough strength in it.
I am also working a lot on a technique that I call 'impregnation', which involves creating a bond between all the ingredients in the dish. You need real consistency. His relationship between the asparagus and sardine was great, but it seemed to me that there was a detachment between the two products during the tasting. The goal is to recreate the link so that its story holds together and makes sense. Even if your dish is already great, you really have to create the 'wow' factor because in this kind of competition, you shouldn't do things by halves, you have to stand out.
Discover Alexandre Alves Pereira's signature dish:
Which of the Seven Sages do you think will appreciate Alexander Alves Pereira's dish the most and why?
That's very hard to say because I don’t know them all. I think even though their worlds are all very different, an emotionally powerful dish can appeal to everyone. The goal is to please the greatest number without having a consensual cuisine. Our goal will be to make Alexandre's dish appealing to everyone.
What do you think is the strongest point of Alexandre's dish?
The dish's visual aspect is very playful, but also controlled and technical.
Given that France has a great gastronomic tradition, why do you think a young French chef has yet to win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy competition?
I don't really have an explanation, but it's a real challenge for us this year. The format of the competition is very particular because there is no set theme so the ideas are all different, and perhaps the French have not been able to make their mark yet. I would also say that winning a contest depends on a lot of parameters in the moment. There needs to be an alignment of the planets between the quality of the dish, the chef’s state of mind and that of the jury that day. It’s not about a nation but about the leader’s training and psychology.