“ I like the truth. I love people who love the others, and cooking is made to please the others. When I started my job, my mother said to me: “You know my little one, in your work, you will never have to count. Neither your time, nor your generosity, nor your efforts … For it is by giving yourself fully that you will receive your reward.” The truth is there. The pleasure of cooking is to see people happy. And the chance we have is that right away, we have the recognition and we can also give it to the others. Eating is a very intimate act and food is even the very first gift that is given to someone. I will go even further since the first thing a child learns at birth is taste. Voltaire said, “Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.” The cuisine gives us an identity regarding a region, a country and even a family. And it is the marriage of all these elements that makes a cuisine of signature : our culture when we are child, our learnings, the interaction with our environment and when we are travelling in the world and our personality. When people eat well, they are automatically smiling and happy. That’s why, we can create a family atmosphere where people have fun, talk or tell stories. They are then natural and become themselves. Even in politics, meals are provided before any difficult negotiations. But the purest gesture is to give this attention gratuitously so that the person feels welcome for himself, and not for a purpose or for his titles or status. And since you cannot buy something that is given freely, it creates memorable experiences that give meaning to life.
Being authentic also allows to build a network based on fundamentals. For me, it is honesty in the first place because the person who employs me has given me his confidence and I do not want to betray it in any way. That’s how I earned the respect of my bosses, merchants, employees and even union members when I was at Gray d’Albion. The professional relationship evolved towards a lasting friendship that is verified over time. I always wanted to have a personal and privileged relationship with all those who participate to this beautiful project which is to receive at home, offering the best of oneself, of its region and its local products. I never forget that I am a farmer’s son with values as rigor, hard work and constancy and my vision of life has always been in transparency and accountability.
I had the chance to grow up in a family that gave me great freedom to explore life and nature. This gave me the love of the terroir and the respect of the product and of those who make it. That is why I am campaigning today to spread this message among younger generations. Our farmers are the gardeners of the land, the gardeners of France and the gardeners of a region. And they are the ones who make us eat by offering good products. So you have to respect the food and stop the waste. And how to do otherwise when you know that a real peasant is in love with his products and his animals. He is happy to give you this good product he has made, and there are so many thanks to do on our plate. During the preparation, we also have to put together all what is given, because a good cook knows how to accommodate the kitchen leftovers and the less noble parts. I worked with dieticians and I understood some associations and the science of food and textures. That’s why I use them in my cuisine and for my own meals. Respecting products, cooking and tastes is a science as an art, and this offers a harmonious balance full of flavors. The guests staying at the Bastide hotel always tell me: “We eat more than usual and yet we are hungry as a wolf before each meal!” This is the result of a healthy, digestible and balanced cuisine. And mine is full of colors and full of emotions in tastes and truth. I do not try to cheat. I do not try to make flourishes that are useless. If I put a flower for example, it is because it will bring taste and a special note. Put a broom flower or a rosemary flower that will give you subtle aromas (rosemary is very powerful, but the flower is more delicate). It is full of sweetness and femininity and that goes well with the cuisine of our region, the Mediterranean cuisine, the Provencal and the Cote d’Azur one.
In conclusion, in my trade, we become owner and want to settle personally to let our cuisine, our region and our place reflect the same facets of reality and tell our difference. That is authenticity, your authenticity. But in order to do so, you must have toured them first, for you can only understand this authenticity by bringing together all the elements. We must also get to the bottom of things. And you becomes yourself when all these emblematic things that make a life, are reunited. This is fundamental because to become a great Chef, one must have its own identity. We must create this identity and this signature, as a painter or a couturier. For me, everything turned out to be coming here because I was seized by the exoticism of the place. And it gave me a free hand to invent something else, to create new associations, aromas and perfumes that no one had thought of, for I was a virgin of the local culture. The guides and the media came to taste all this variety and they found a modern and creative cuisine, completely revisited. It was a revolution in taste, style and cooking, and that is what made me know. ”
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on August 3, 2017, at Grasse (Provence Côte d’Azur)