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July_Aug UK Chef

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woman. So I stepped back

woman. So I stepped back - doing accounts, logistics.” Anne -Sophie continues to bravely recount to me the blow that came next “Just months later my father passed away. It was an enormous personal set back (after all he was the guide that was meant to show me the ropes) but also professional as the restaurant was in peril also, of risk of loosing its stars.” So how did this young female Chef deal with this challenge I ask her? Self Taught Chef “I entered the kitchen - it was a baptism of fire! Imagine: my father’s Chefs had been there some for 15 or 20 years - no one paid me any attention. No one really wanted me there. So I stuck to the other administrative tasks. My husband David and I knew we needed to develop the restaurant, but my brother Alain was reluctant to invest in it. In 1995 we lost the third star. It was a blow - we’d let our father down.” She appears visibly saddened by that period. But from the flames rises the Joan of Arc! “Two years later I re-entered the kitchen, stronger, determined. Yes, it was incredibly hard, I won’t deny it.” But this lady it appears was not for the turning! “My brother left on 1998. I persevered. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” “I may not have had the technical skills yet but I had my honed palate. And I had mentors who helped me greatly like the great Michel Bras. I developed my own approach to play with favours, sauces, cooking methods. Taking the past and reinventing it.” He strength was duly rewarded: holding on to the second star, it was in 2007, ten years after her arrival that she made history winning back her father’s pride, the third Michelin star. ”Being a self-taught Chef is also a form of freedom. I had no inhibitions, I wasn’t fenced in. I could be curious! And I am to this day. I will always be. To construct, to question, to push the boundaries of creativity. Why not replace rich flavours and dense butters with lighter, zestier infusions? Why not replace the regal ingredients used by my predecessors like rich fois gras, truffles and caviar with humble ones like cabbage and turnips? I learned lots but mostly that I am never truly content unless I am in the creative process and pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone.” Sense of Place As well as three restaurants in Valence, the Chef also runs her own restaurant in Paris, plus the 5 star Beau Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne Switzerland, Raffles in Singapore, as well as where we meet, at La Dame de Pic London 1*, Four Seasons London at Ten Trinity Square in the shadow of the great Tower of London. Each restaurant is reflective of its unique environment, an important factor for the Chef. “Cuisine is about culture. It’s about absorbing and communicating the essence of a place and traditions which have been passed on over generations, a method and practice of doing things in that particular environ. It’s often a verbal or practical wisdom passed on from generations, and it’s that I want to explore and pass on. What I do is transmission of culture 26 and emotions. Like when I went to Asia, it was a complete culture shock! Everything takes time to absorb, to understand. But patience pays off: now methods and ingredients I was introduced to there are essential parts of my cuisine, like my herbal infusions and use of Matcha, cinnamon leaves instead of sticks and cocoa nibs. Or like how a cream of tarragon changes with geranium flower! It’s often difficult to integrate unknown ingredients into our recipes but this is a research, an evolution, a modification and practice - we do all this in Valence - I bring back suitcases of ingredients from my travels!” She explains further “So it’s important each restaurant reflects its own particular sense of place and its imprint on cooking. So in London, we utilise the amazing produce on our doorstep here, like Scottish meats, Cornish crabs, amazing local cheeses like Stilton and Cheddar. I discovered here the playful, daring aspect of the Anglo-Saxon world of cooking. It is uninhibited, the traditions are less heavy.” “I don’t want to be that French Chef who doesn’t take into consideration the terroir they are in and just sticks to their own traditions. I spend about 70% of my time in Valence and the rest overseeing my kitchens around the globe. Everywhere I go I look for the products of that land, culinary heritage and local culture”. Back to Scook! With a library of published books on cookery and a laymen’s cookery school (Cooking School SCOOK established in 2008 in Valence) the titles of the accompanying cookbooks hints at the Chef’s aim to demystify and make more accessible the world of gastronomy: the latest book Scook 5, presenting ‘practical home recipes’, Scook 4, titled ‘classic recipes for everyone’, Scook 4 recipes for children and another book on everyday recipes. But it’s not all academic: included in her portfolio of establishments (that also includes the hotel Maison PIC Hôtel 5* et Restaurant Gastronomique Anne-Sophie Pic 3*, in Valence) there is Pic vineyards in Saint-Péray as well as a deli (épicerie) “Daily Pic”. A simple take-away serving dishes some around the €10 mark, is democratising gastronomy an aim of the Chef I ask? “Good food should not be reserved exclusively for the rich. My father was very respectful of people who came to his restaurant having saved all year to be there. I am not a Chef up on some pedestal. Let’s not loose track of the fact that at the end of the day we’re just cooks!” Says Anne-Sophie with a gracious humbleness. “I’m just a self-taught cook who wants to transmit what I have learned, to give to others a shared joy.” She pauses before she politely ends out time together and heads back to the kitchens. Tenderly she speaks “I am my father’s daughter. I have a duty of his memory, and this challenge spurs me on.” “I want that the name Pic shines again even more brilliantly.....I want to do what my father didn’t have the time to do....” And with that, the lady bows out towards her kitchen. Yes Chef !

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