Heir to one of the oldest and most influential gastronomic lineages in the world, chef Claude Troisgros is a French native who now calls Brazil his home. Away from the structure of French cuisine, he forged his own style of cuisine in Rio de Janeiro.
His Franco-Brazilian cooking is full of freedom and unexpected flavors. Its hallmark was the technique of mixing fruits and vegetables in the same dish. Troisgros values ingredients from the Amazon, regional recipes from Brazil and has even developed a network of suppliers with small producers and organic farmers. His dishes are a reflection of his cheerful personality and his recipes turn every day ingredients into sublime dishes. The chef takes something as humble as dried sugar cane juice and turns it into a delectable glaze to accompany an exquisite dish of foie gras and heart of palm at his restaurant Olympe.
What began as a small business in just a few square meters and two clients has blossomed into a career studded with four restaurants that Troisgros runs with his 35-year old son Thomas, who is also a chef and was born in Brazil. Throughout his career the chef has opened, closed and transformed restaurants but his toughness has been an essential ingredient. His son admits "I admire many things about my father, but especially his vision of the future, always reinventing himself and creating new concepts, and always moving forward."
Fine Dining Lovers spoke to chef Claude Troisgros ahead of his trip to Mexico City, where the French chef will receive the 2016 Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the celebration of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants. The award will be given during the ceremony, held today - Monday 26 September at 8.45 PM and will be livestreamed here.
It will celebrate Troisgros’ 40-year career but mostly his outstanding contribution to the gastronomy of his adopted country Brazil. "It is an honor for me and I thank the industry professionals and especially to customers who have been faithful for 38 years to my restaurant Olympe. It is a total joy and emotion that moves me, the Lifetime Achievement Award is very close to my heart. "
How did you manage the cultural and social shock during your early years in Río de Janeiro?
It was hard in the beginning. Rio had no culinary tradition in 1980 in the sense of high gastronomy as we understand today. As I mingled easily in the culture of other countries I adapted very well in Rio and was able to explore the varieties of products offered in the markets. Besides, I was welcomed as a son by the cariocas (the locals).
When did you realize you didn’t desire to return to France?
At the end of my 2-year contract with Le Pre Catelan I returned to the family restaurant in Roanne. But… I missed Brazil enormously. Roanne was too small for me then. So I returned to Rio without a job and opened my first restaurant in the city called Roanne. It was very simple: only 18 stalls and 6 tables, a fridge and my house stove. The success of this first endeavor allowed me to open Olympe in another address where it is until today.
What was your father’s reaction when you told him that you would stay in Rio de Janeiro?
My father’s dream has always been to continue the tradition of the two brothers working together: first Pierre and Jean, then Claude and Michel. He was upset at the time and told me to manage being by myself in Brazil. So I can say that my career as chef I did by my own hard work.
What do you like most about Brazil?
I love the sunny Brazilian way of life.
How did you do it to “survive” during those early months without speaking Portuguese?
The Portuguese language like the French is a Latin language. Many worlds are similar and I managed good enough. Taking after my Italian mother, I used my hands to communicate!
As you are so enthusiastic, I would like to ask if you have any new projects in mind that you would like to share?
My son Thomas is completely responsible for Olympe today. So I am more free to carry out my dream which is to open a new restaurant in Rio, based in my first one: Roanne from 1983 with the traditional recipes that landmarked my career. I also have new propositions for my Tv show.