Brandview: Meet a Michelin-Star Chef

Jean Chauvel won a Michelin star one year after opening his eponymous restaurant; we speak to him about his craft and the importance of dairy
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Michelin-Star Chef, Jean Chauvel, Red Mullet
Michelin-Star Chef, Jean Chauvel, Red Mullet

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How did you decide to become a chef?

It’s a craft that has been in my family for many generations. Both my mother and grandmother were chefs, and I knew from a very early age that this is what I wanted to do. I told my French teacher about it, but he said that it wasn’t a real job, and I think that’s because it wasn’t well-known or even accepted as a career of choice, back when I was growing up. However, I insisted and persevered, because food is a magical thing for me, and it is in this job that I am able to give a lot of myself and receive a lot in return. Being a chef requires great generosity, inner happiness and a willingness to give, all the time.

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What is the source of your culinary inspiration?

I find inspiration in the ingredients I use. I listen to them; I try to make sense of how each and every ingredient will fit, and I mould them with my techniques into a natural and spontaneous output that carries a tinge of the intuitive and noble process that went into its creation. For example, when I speak to the fishmongers I deal with, I let them know the quantity and types of fish I need, and they send me the best they have. What happens later is that I try and translate this into dishes that are as delicate and delicious as the goods I received.

What is your favourite dish?

My signature dish is the jambon-beurre (ham with butter sandwich); a rich and flavourful mousse sipped through a pipette, retaining the savoury essence of the jambon-beurre sandwich. In my opinion, this recipe invokes fond memories among people; it is the alchemy of memory and knowledge. A lot of people who visit my restaurant come only for this dish; it’s not only a recipe, but a performance, an atmosphere, a service. You need several elements to compose a course. The chef, as well as the clients, must be open and receptive to this experience.

Do people like it when you add butter and cream to your dishes?

I believe that, once you try and transform a product, you’re essentially damaging it. Therefore, I enhance my recipes with butter and cream, since they add natural richness and beauty to my dishes, and people always love that.

How important are dairy products to you?

Butter and cream enable us to enrich the ingredients we work with, to add texture and silkiness. Cream works well as a starter, main course or dessert. It can be served sweet or salty. It elevates the dish, lending structure to it, forming a base. However, I don’t cook cream for too long; I add it in the final stages of preparation.

Do you use any other dairy products in your dishes?

I use cheeses that can be cooked such as gorgonzola, Tomme de Savoie and Saint-Nectaire. I am in a constant search for new types of cheese, trying to find ways of livening up the taste buds of my guests, and cheese is perhaps the best way to achieve it.

What tips would you give other chefs?

Try to do everything as well as you can and with everything you have. Do not do things half-heartedly. Give it your all, with honesty and dedication. Being a chef is not a part-time job; it is a lifestyle that you have to live without compromise; going as far as the limits are, and beyond that. This is the way to be happy. This is how you lead by example, and how you can make your guests happy.

Dish: Red Mullet

(Brittany Coast) COCO ET GOJI
Serves four people

Ingredients:

2 large red mullets
20 goji berries
Coriander
1 sheet of Nori
1 fresh coconut
2 zucchini florets
10g snail eggs
¼ whole milk
¼ liquid cream
200g butter
Noilly Prat, salt, pepper, Espelette, olive oil, Mycryo

Steps:

Scale, rinse and debone the red mullet.
Cook tenderly with Mycryo and keep warm.
Cut the Nori leaves in square-shaped pieces.Soak the berries in hot water.
Hull the coriander. Grate the coconut.

Dressing:

Put the red mullet at the center of the plate and surround it with the ingredients.
Sauce: Flambé Noilly Prat, add milk cream and melted butter.

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