NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Fewer than 100 restaurants in the world have three Michelin stars, among the culinary world's highest honors. Hotel Le Bristol Paris where Eric Frechon is the head chef is one of them.
The distinction is one of many accolades for Frechon, who was born in Normandy in northwestern France. He was also voted Chef of the Year by Le Chef Magazine and awarded the Legion d'Honneur by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who is a fan of his culinary talent.
During a visit to New York, where he cooked some of his signature dishes at Daniel, another three-star Michelin restaurant, Frechon spoke to Reuters about growing up in northern France, his approach to cooking and the importance of good ingredients.
Q: Who, or what, inspired you to be a chef?
A: "From morning to night, even in the middle of the night, I always think about cooking. But I also can get inspired by an ingredient, an object. But I am traditionally trained and inspired by French cuisine and interested in giving it a new look and taking a new approach to French cuisine."
Q: You started very young, at 17. Did you always want to be a chef and who had the biggest influence on you?"
A: "Paul Bocuse, of course. I didn't know him but he was the man who was the pope of gastronomy. For a young chef he was the symbol of the greatest French chef."
Q: You were born in Normandy. Has growing up in northern France had an impact on your choice of dishes and the ingredients that you use?
A: "My grandfather was a farmer. He grew vegetables. My father sold vegetables at the farmer's market, and I cook vegetables. In Normandy there is a link between the land and the sea, and I think in my cuisine I like to play with both. I am inspired by my roots. I combine shellfish and chicken, which is a classic combination, but I adapt and refine it."
Q: What are your signature dishes?
A: "Classic dishes, but revisited and reinterpreted. Tete de veau (calf's head), whiting with a bread crust, poularde de Bresse (farm hen), stuffed macaroni. It sounds Italian but it is very French to eat macaroni with artichoke. I interpret the classic but also refine it. It is a combination of simplicity and balance. My cooking is very simple, looking at it, but quite complex and difficult because the simplicity requires high precision."
Q: You use mousses and foams which are very delicate but still have a strong flavor. How do you achieve it?
A: "Today we have new techniques which help us to be more precise and enable us to make new tastes and textures and to bring lightness to a preparation, which we couldn't in the past. The taste and the lightness together are important."
Q: Do you have any favorite ingredients?
A: "I like wild game and wild hare. I have been practicing the recipe for Lievre a la Royale (hare) for 25 years but it is only in the last two years that I have been able to say I am proud of it."
Q: When you cook for yourself, what type of food do you eat?
A: "I like a good steak or roast chicken, something very simple but with good ingredients.
Potato with basil and black olive tapenade
1 jar of black olive tapenade
20 basil leaves
2 egg yolks
10 cl (3.5 oz) of olive oil
Peel and wash potatoes. Carve them into thin lengthwise slices, do not wash again. Spread one half of the slices side by side, place a smaller basil leaf on each slice.
Separate the eggs yolks and whites and keep the two yolks to blend with a little water and apply with a paint brush around the edge of the potato slices. Place the other half of the slices putting one on each of the slices already in the dish with the basil leaf and the blended egg yolk. Press firmly so the slices are glued together.
Take a large Tefal pan, heat with the olive oil. Place potatoes side by side and cook both sides until colored.
Serve with a jar of tapenade either with drinks before dinner or as a side dish with meat or fish.