Your adventure with the Bocuse d’Or is entering its fifth year now. The contest has become part of both your professional and personal lives. Is it still as impressive or has your relationship to the Bocuse d’Or become something natural for you?
I think it’s natural, the past four years have been a great experience. I feel really privileged to be a part of it, it was a dream of mine ever since I was 9! But for me the Bocuse d’Or is still just as complex. Being a good chef is not enough, you must be able to do everything. Each step and any progress I have made during these years certainly contributed to make me a better person.
The human dimension of the event is still as important as ever. It is at the heart of such a demanding contest and rigorous training. How do you see this aspect, how do you take it into account?
You need to be very strict when you’re training, which does require good discipline, but you also need to surround yourself with people who are aware of all this. You must always believe in the process and show patience. The goal can seem very far away, but anything you learn along the way is a bonus, and the devil is in the details.
After four years, what are the aspects you cherish most? The practice, observation…
I am a man of details. I love to work, but I enjoy seeing the details develop and watching the process. This time as a judge, things will be different after years spent working frantically in the contest kitchens. I see this moment as something very special.
Do you find that being on the other side is more liberating?
Not really. When you’re cooking and the stopwatch starts, there’s so many things to prepare, you don’t have time to think about pressure because the clock is ticking, but when you’re observing, you realise how much stress is generated around you. I’m more a man of action than words.
What influence did this experience have on your work, on how you imagine your dishes?
It changed my perception, the way ingredients are related, you also realise how important it is to respect the products, the producers… My work is to highlight the products, respect them as they are and work with them naturally. Sprinkling a spoonful of caviar over your dish doesn’t make you a good chef. A good chef must understand the categories of vegetables, herbs, and ingredients that are not used so often. If you can apply this to other techniques, tastes, and flavours, then you’re a good chef.
You are part of the generation of young chefs who are introducing a new era for the Bocuse d’Or, what are the aspects that are more modern?
In my opinion, that would have to be the techniques we use today that enable us to create amazing dishes, but also more generally, the way we choose our products is more focused on sustainability.
You exchange with teams from other countries, other cultures, which ones caught your attention?
Well, naturally Davy and Team France made quite an impression in 2021, they pushed the contest to a new level of gastronomic thinking. This inspired a lot of respect in France. They managed to depart from the beaten path, to concoct something that was indeed traditional but with a shift in perspective that was interesting to watch. Italy and Iceland were also right up there, demonstrating superb creations in terms of development.