Christophe Pelé, the chef at two-star restaurant Le Clarence in Paris, is unique. Named Cook of the Year by the Guide Pudlo Paris 2018, his dishes are based on French ingredients using Asian techniques - using precise cooking and cuts - as well as spices from round the world.
Another special feature of Christophe Pelé's cuisine is the (almost) total absence of salt in his dishes. Why has he chosen to practice this? And, more importantly, how does he properly season a dish without adding salt? The chef explains ...
Why have you drastically reduced salt in your recipes?
The first explanation that comes to mind is "health." As we all know, our salt intake is often too high but reducing it is not so simple ... There is also another interesting aspect, that if we replace salt with naturally salty foods, the associations are more refined, more delicate, and flavours are not distorted. It's a personal choice, but the fact of not using salt, or very little, is practiced in my kitchen at Clarence.
Do you prepare dishes totally without salt?
Yes, of course. But everything is about balance in the dishes that are prepared ... and the salty aspect can be achieved in other ways!
What ingredients do you use to replace salt? And what are the specificities of each?
To name but a few, I use anchovies, caviar, bottarga, "colatura di alici" (anchovy sauce), etc. Each product has its own characteristics and everything depends on the dish that we cook. For example, anchovies are fattier than bottarga, poutargue can be more salty or less salty, etc.
Can you give us some examples of your dishes?
With pleasure, here are some dishes where no salt is added and yet the products marry very well: "Oyster, karashi and caviar", "Saint-Jacques, anchovies, beetroot, clementine and rocket flower" or "Saint-Jacques, peas, Gwell and poutargue. "