HAVE YOU GOTTEN OVER WHAT YOU HAVE JUST EXPERIENCED? THE PREPARATIONS, THE TESTS AND YOUR VICTORY?
Actually, I did not really need to recover after all this, as I was very well supported during the two years leading up to the contest. I had prepared myself for all scenarios: how to react if I did not reach the podium, if I came in second or third place, and also if I won! My state of mind was simply to enjoy myself, to draw on the notions of pleasure and commitment. These words were a driving force throughout up until the victory. I still haven’t fully realised that I won, but I’m not tired, victory no doubt contributes to the euphoria. I don’t want to come back down to earth; I want to share with a maximum of people, not necessarily from our trade. Young people will come up to me in the street asking for selfies, saying “you brought home the World Cup”!
THIS WAS A UNIQUE EDITION, HELD IN THE WAKE OF THE ORDEAL, WITH A VISIT FROM THE FRENCH PRESIDENT, A SPECIAL HIGHLIGHT... HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO KEEP THE NOTION OF PLEASURE IN YOUR COOKING?
I wasn’t pursuing this notion in fact, I was prepared. I remember, on September 26th I was attending the Dîner des Grands Chefs, it was important to be there, but several chefs were telling me “Go home, go and rest”. But I knew I was feeling great. On September 24th, I did my last mock run, this enabled me to reassure the team, we were ready. From that point on, you’re in a bubble, team work also brings a form of serenity, as I have faith in them. For two or three months, we to bed early and got up early to get into the pace on D-Day. But, as it happens, at 8:39, when I began my contest day, I drew a blank. I asked my coach: “What am I supposed to do now?”, then it was as if he’s turned on a switch and I was off for 5h 30 min of contest. I kept this bubble until 2:30 am the next day, when I went to bed.
DO YOU ALWAYS USE THIS ENERGY, THE DESIRE TO NOT COME DOWN AGAIN?
Yes, I think it’s important. Monsieur Paul came back home with me, and it is a great pride for me that a chef from Lyon won it: I think it would not have been the same victory if it had been a chef from another region. The trophy had been in the hands of France for eight years and I believe that we, the team, had the duty to always promote French gastronomy in our country of course, but also on the international scene. In a way, this was part of our plan I suppose (smile).
ANOTHER DIMENSION, THERE PLANNING WITH YOUR PLAN... YOU WERE ONE STEP AHEAD WITH THE QR CODE THAT REVEALED THE MENU DURING THE CONTEST, WAS THERE A DESIRE TO REVAMP THE IMAGE OF THE CONTEST?
I wouldn’t say revamp, as we used our traditional basics, all my dishes draw from Escoffier, that was important to me. However, the work surrounding the box (takeaway menu test) was based on 3D tools and new materials. We wanted to avoid a flat wooden tray, so we used corn thread, fish glue as in marquetry, paint with charcoal and curcuma... We also sought to impulse movement in the colours. And finally, the QR code. France had to stand out, I have often heard say “You the French, you’re so old-fashioned”. So, we set to work on what we wanted to reveal about the menu one week earlier, we did a lot of thinking. We made the most of Covid space-time, we turned that into something positive and asked ourselves: how can we preserve our French know-how, how to make it evolve. You need to plan ahead: what will be able to create that is new? That is a message I would like to share. You must be able to question yourself.
YOU WERE ONE OF FEW PARTICIPANTS TO FEMINISE YOUR TEAM, WITH NAÏS PIROLLET FOR THE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE RECIPES. THIS WAS A NATURAL CHOICE?
Yes, absolutely. I have travelled a lot in South America, Portugal, Spain, and it is very often women who hold chef positions. In Lyon, we had the ‘mères lyonnaises’, for me, this is quite natural. It should not be a combat, but something normal, gender makes no difference to me, a contestant is a contestant and only their skills are important. A female chef may contribute a different touch, a more sensitive approach possibly, something that men have too, but that women are better at expressing and that could make the difference.
CONTEST ARE OFTEN QUITE MALE DOMINATED, IS THIS SOMETHING YOU HAVE ADDRESSED?
Yes, of course. Personally, I encourage women to go ahead, to not limit themselves. We all have talent, we all have skills and potential. Do I want to express something with this particular contest? I think we must push and open up more, offer more support possibly. However, women have the same abilities as men, they don’t need us to shine.
A WORD FOR REIMS, THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BE ASSISTING YOU DURING THIS BOCUSE D'OR?
I am delighted to go to Reims and that the French selecting event is travelling too. It is a good idea to travel to different regions, throughout our terroir that has so much to offer. Products, talents, everyone has their own cuisine, it’s important for the Bocuse d'Or to travel. I will also be meeting chefs such as Arnaud Lallement, Philippe Mille... I have seen the names of some of the judges, and I believe that opening up to other cuisines that are not necessarily ‘contest cuisines’ is important. Personally, my DNA comes from ‘contest cuisine’, but I find it interesting to reach out to chefs who do not come from the world of contests. I think it is also important to reach out to one’s opposites, to enrich oneself. You cannot grow if you always take the easy path and work with people who are like you. That is why I think it is important for the Bocuse d’Or to be a travelling event, to renew the judges... So, the next stage will be the international selecting events. The French event must already shift into international mode, and having a jury with different palates and visions, is a great initiative.
WHAT IS DAVY TISSOT’S SECRET TUNE, THE SECRET RECIPE?
I recently travelled to Ukraine for the contest, where I was asked the same question... I answered: “Preserve your identity”. The identity of your country is important, but at the same time, it must also evolve, because the playing field is no longer France, but the whole world. The charter of the ‘Meilleurs Ouvriers de France’ distinction mentions that ‘the past is important, the present is important, and so is the future’. This is what shapes the future candidates, but this is true in many trades. You need to look ahead, project, and play in the global field.
Interview by Hannah Benayoun
© Julien Bouvier