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Emmanuel Renaut celebrates twenty years since the opening of his restaurant, Flocons de Sel this year. The Parisian chef, who has always been "in love with the mountains" claims to have chosen the French ski resort, Megève, as a place to live even before choosing his career, "If I was not a cook, I would still live in the mountains," he laughs.
Today, Emmanuel Renaut considers himself, in all modesty, as a mountain guide who invites his customers to explore local products in another way. "I try to bring my environment to the plate", explains the Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2004. "Twenty or thirty years ago, mountain cuisine was reputed to be too heavy, too rich. The idea is to prove that by using the same products we can achieve something totally different. "
The road was long and winding before arriving at such a result. "When I opened my restaurant it was quite complicated to work in the same sector as Marc Veyrat having worked with him for seven years, and to continue working with the same products, while detaching from his culinary identity," the triple-starred chef remembers. But through encounters, walks and inspiration, the chef managed to refine his style and win all the honors.
FineDiningLovers had the chance to chat with Emmanuel Renaut about his cuisine and why a chef's work is all about passion.
After twenty years of Flocons de Sel, how would you define your cooking?
It's always difficult to define one's style of cuisine. I would say that I have traditional training, I like sauces, jus and not just the assembly kitchen. In any case, tradition is the basis of everything for me. You have to have solid foundations in order to allow yourself to be creative and "delirious", a little like a painter who will simply learn to draw before painting paintings that are worth millions.
Also, I am very attached to what we offer the surrounding nature. A few years ago, I decided to stop cooking saltwater fish and started to only cook fish from the neighboring lakes. At first, the customers were asking me for turbot, but today, it's these very customers that come back just to eat lake fish. It is extraordinary to arrive at such a result and see such evolution. Over the last twenty years my cooking has evolved a lot, but so have my customers. People have become more knowledgeable and more open.
You often work with the same products. How do you keep the ideas fresh?
It's pretty funny ... Sometimes there are things that marked me and come out years later. For example, I went on a trip to Hokkaido (Japan) in the mid-90s. I remember we went out to meet the Inuit and they had me taste some water. It was roasted wood chips infused in water, much like tea. This taste had marked me, but it only really reappeared in my mind ten years later. I had a click and I worked this technique for a restaurant dish. I would say that it is all that I live which inspires me and makes me renew myself.
You've been offering a 30 percent discount for under 35s on your menu for several months now. Why ?
One day I went to Marc Haeberlin and he was launching a similar operation. I thought the idea was great! When you have three stars and you are the Meillleur Ouvrier in France, it's sometimes difficult to attract a young clientele. Young people often think that they won't feel comfortable or that they don't have the financial means to dine here. With this promotion, we attract people who, in normal conditions, would never have come. It's great to see them arrive a little skeptical and then see them leave completely conquered.
When talking about young people, how important is the transmission of knowledge?
To make a parallel with the world of the mountain, I would say that I am like a roped first. I am in front but I can not get to the top alone. We're all together, it's teamwork, and I'm lucky to have wonderful brigades. I see myself as young, when I admired Joel Robuchon who had three stars and was Meilleur Ouvrier de France... Today, it's the same case so even if my job still fascinates me so much, I can't get more prestigious titles. On the other hand, the young people who work with me have everything to prove. They are dynamic, progress at a fabulous speed and I love to train this new generation. I hope that one day they will have the same journey on their side. In any case I do everything for.
In your opinion, why are you still so passionate about cooking after all these years?
At the beginning of my career I loved cooking, but I was not passionate. The passion came when I worked at the Crillon alongside chefs like Jean-François Rouquette, Jean-François Trap, etc. We were a real family and we still are.
It was then that I realized that cooking opened extraordinary doors and made it possible to meet fabulous people. I started from nothing, I had a CAP in my pocket and today great politicians, top athletes and other stars come to my restaurant and thank me at the end of the meal. This is not given to all trades! But the best part is that the kitchen brings together all the social classes. In a rotten world like ours because of ecological and political problems, we make people dream, wherever they come from, for a few hours and I think it's great.
Finally, what culinary experience has you noticed most in your life?
I don't know if we can really talk about a specific culinary experience but rather as a whole. For example, I'm a mushroom addict. When it's high season, I go to picking five times a week. I marvel that nature can do something so perfect! Finding the first cep of the season is a real pleasure! When I come back with my basket full, I am happy. I never get tired.