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What FR chef would you want to learn cooking from?


Le Peche
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I've been discussing this question with a couple board members privately but I wanted to pose it to others just out of curiosity.

To quote Daniel Boulud a couple of times on his advice to young cooks, he says, "everyone needs to have mentors to create a strong foundation. You should choose three or four chefs to learn from who will provide the foundation of who you will become as a chef."

he also has said, "to become one of the best, you want to work with the best."

So considering these quotes, if you were a young cook, knowing that the first 5 years or so if your career largely determine the rest of your career, what type of chef you are going to be and are relatively unattached being able to relocate anywhere.

If you could pick any restaurant in the world to work at as an intern or commis, to work under a certain chef, be mentored by him and build the foundation of who you want to be. Which chef would it be and why? I was it would be interested to find out the top 3.

mine are 1) Alain Passard, 2) Michel Bras, and 3) Olivier Roellinger.

Passard for his great technical skills, attention to vegetables, small kitchen and for him being present often to be able to learn from him directly.

Michel Bras because of great produce and beef in the Aubrac, great place to live for a year, I like the organic look of his plating even though the dishes are by no means simple.

Roellinger for his use of really fresh sea food, using out of the ordinary ingredients/combinations but not going overboard and for still being the saucier and being very present in every part of his restaurant.

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Would you have be in Paris - or even France? Although I am sure that both Paris and France have lots of great chefs - I am not sure it is a great area to be working hard and not making a lot of money (because it is a very expensive place to live).

Also - another question I would have is what is your skill level? Are you ready to chop vegetables and hull strawberries - or do something more advanced?

Finally - what is your ultimate goal? Being a great chef simply for the sake of being a great chef may seem like a great idea when you're 25 and single - not such a great idea when you're 40 - and married with 3 kids. See - for example - Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Do you want to be working on our own when you're 40 - or an executive chef working for another person or place? Robyn

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Would you have be in Paris - or even France? Although I am sure that both Paris and France have lots of great chefs - I am not sure it is a great area to be working hard and not making a lot of money (because it is a very expensive place to live).

Also - another question I would have is what is your skill level? Are you ready to chop vegetables and hull strawberries - or do something more advanced?

Finally - what is your ultimate goal? Being a great chef simply for the sake of being a great chef may seem like a great idea when you're 25 and single - not such a great idea when you're 40 - and married with 3 kids. See - for example - Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Do you want to be working on our own when you're 40 - or an executive chef working for another person or place? Robyn

I think you misunderstand the question.. I already know my top 3, I was wondering what other peoples top 3 chefs are. It's just a hypothetical question. Assuming i guess you are young and could work at any restaurant in the world. where would you choose to go?

Edited by Le Peche (log)
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I would agree with Passard for similar reasons. Adria or Blumenthal to understand that it is like at the cutting edge of modern gastronomy. Then maybe Ducasse or Sayoy to experience the very big, almost industrial, scale of their operations. Three contrasting experiences to hopefully allow someone to develop their own style.

However, what about Ramsay? Not simply for the technical cooking (which I am certain is equal to others) but because he seems to be one of the few chefs who encourages his protégées to create names for themselves as he appears to let allow them to develop their own style in their "own" restaurants. OK they are owned by GRH but he seems to allow the chefs with personality to come through (within reason). Thus we know of: Marcus Wareing (Petrus), Jason Atherton (Maze), Mark Sargeant (Claridges), Angela Harnett (Murano), Clare Smyth and Mark Askew (RHR), and of course Simone Zanoni and Jerome Legras (Versailles). OK it isn't perfect (i.e. the Wareing/Ramsay spat over Petrus) but are there any other top chefs who are as generous?

So is it better to have a mentor who helps your technique or one who can further your personal ambition?

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However, what about Ramsay? Not simply for the technical cooking (which I am certain is equal to others) but because he seems to be one of the few chefs who encourages his protégées to create names for themselves as he appears to let allow them to develop their own style in their "own" restaurants.

So is it better to have a mentor who helps your technique or one who can further your personal ambition?

I like Phil's approach. As a total ignoramus when it comes to cooking, if I were 18 and starting out in Paris, I'd go to Constant or Camdeborde (who have arguably spun off more chefs), Savoy (less so but not bad) and Ledeuil (who has stagieres from all over all the time). These are not the starred guys mentioned above but, hey....as Phil says....

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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To quote Daniel Boulud a couple of times on his advice to young cooks, he says, "everyone needs to have mentors to create a strong foundation. You should choose three or four chefs to learn from who will provide the foundation of who you will become as a chef."

I'd ask our French members what they think about what I've only read about in books (principly the pseudonyimous Olivier Morteau); that two of the guiding spirits (I suppose mentors) have been Ducasse and Robuchon and that the Freemasonry connections come into play in their promotion of "their" chefs.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Let me give a brief personal example that applies to this discussion.

Years ago when I was younger and starting out in this business I applied for a position in a nationally well known restaurant here in America with a chef I truly admired.

I got accepted and relocated to a new state with my new family in tow and was full of enthusiasm. In short it was a great experience. How could I even express the high points of working next to the late Bernard Loiseau when he was there has a visiting chef? I learned a lot and the experience advanced my career measurably, not to mention my salary which tripled after having this restaurant on my resume.

On the other hand even though they were few, the negatives existed and reality was not as I imagined. For one I rarely seen the chef. He would make a appearance during service for example only if Paul Newman or Tim and Nina Zagat were on the books and a kitchen tour was expected.

In all it was not uncommon to only see him a few times a month and not more then a hour or two during service. And in all honesty even to this day I chuckle when I hear diners express the importantance of the chef in the kitchen. In my experience in this one particular restaurant if anything his presence caused a disruption. To put it in a understandable context imagine Michael Jordan returning to basketball now after being out of the heat of the game for so long and expecting to win the championship? Sure his experience in the game would likely outweigh all others. But yet like basketball a busy kitchen is about rhythm and pace and absence never improves those talents.

So now looking back at my career what have I learned? Well for one work for the best you can without a doubt. But one must look deeper into one's priorities when picking a mentor. Those in the industry rarely cook for stardom and financial gain as only few reach that level. They mostly do it because they love it and its in their heart and soul and can't imagine doing anything else. Plus I think were all a little disturbed in one way or another. :laugh:

With that said sure working for Ducasse or Ramsay will advance your career greatly. But give me the small personal kitchen of Barbot, Pacaud any day over the former.

A place where you are part of the success and soul, not just a number in the payroll department. I must say I would also love to work in Passards kitchen even though I'm unsure of how much he is involved in its daily operation these days.

In America. Working for Keller or Boulud will surly skyrocket your career. But now if given the choice in the present my dream would have been to work with Keller side by side at La Rive in Catskill, NY

I would pick David Kinch of Manresa or Johnny Monis of Komi any day over the Boulud's or Jean Georges or other big names. Maybe their names on your resume won't open doors as quickly as the more well known media popular chefs. But sometimes the personal satisfaction of learning from those working right next to you is far more beneficial.

Robert R

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To quote Daniel Boulud a couple of times on his advice to young cooks, he says, "everyone needs to have mentors to create a strong foundation. You should choose three or four chefs to learn from who will provide the foundation of who you will become as a chef."

I'd ask our French members what they think about what I've only read about in books (principly the pseudonyimous Olivier Morteau); that two of the guiding spirits (I suppose mentors) have been Ducasse and Robuchon and that the Freemasonry connections come into play in their promotion of "their" chefs.

I think this is essentially correct. With the addendum that the two guiding spirits are often fighting/competing.

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I would want to work with one of those chefs with whom you learn something new everyday no matter how well trained you are. In the past I would have said Robuchon and then, without hesitation, Guichard (I did spend two days in his kitchen and learnt more in those two days than in years). Now I would put Briffard, Guérard and Bocuse first, followed by Pacaud.

Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)
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I think you misunderstand the question.. I already know my top 3, I was wondering what other peoples top 3 chefs are. It's just a hypothetical question. Assuming i guess you are young and could work at any restaurant in the world. where would you choose to go?

Sorry I misunderstood you. Guess I am a practical person - not much into hypotheticals. Is the hypothetical restricted only to high end dining? If it isn't - here is my hypothetical answer. I'd probably want to work in a part of the food industry that deals with "food problems" - and various ways to solve them. Everything from "Edible Schoolyard" projects like those run by Alice Waters and Emeril Lagasse (there should be many more projects like those) - to GM food research (getting better cheaper food to people who need more food - and/or better food - at reasonable prices). It would be nice if fresh fruit and vegetables were cheaper than fast food burgers and tacos (as things stand now - even mediocre produce is relatively unaffordable for lots of people). And if people actually knew how to cook simple nutritious meals for themselves. Even in France - childhood obesity rates are unacceptable - especially if one looks at children in lower income households. See this for example.

I certainly don't have anything against high end dining (I do it in moderation) - but if I really wanted to make a difference as a professional - that would be the road I would take. It's kind of like the difference between becoming the best cosmetic doctor in the world who makes sure the faces and bodies of Hollywood stars are perfect - and working on cures for cancer. The former is important to a small group of people - the latter is important for millions - maybe billions of people. Robyn

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I think that the small places offer a great opportunity. The big names certainly help when job jumping, but if I had to be a fly on the wall - being a CIA grad with some of the best chefs from all over the world - I would like to spend some time with the chefs teaching the basics at the CIA and other culinary schools all over the world and seeing the fundamentals. The basics went so fast that many of the things that were taught I rarely use especially in the South USA where they would not no the difference between a terrine and pickle bologna loaf!

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Among the non-European chefs, the choice is too large to come up with any fair selection. David Kinch is at the top of my list, that I am sure of.

Perhaps followed by a long internship in the gardens and kitchens of the Centre Songhaï, in Porto Novo, Benin, and another one with a great Japanese chef, or perhaps Yu Bo in Chengdu.

Still in Europe: I wouldn't mind a little training with René Redzepi, Jacques Thorel, Mauro Colagreco, and Fulvio Pierangelini.

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Host's Note I'd like to limit this to France so it can remain in the France Forum, because I think we can dig deep into these kitchens we know well and it'll continue to be a fruitful topic about not only where to train but where to eat (see below).

On the other hand even though they were few, the negatives existed and reality was not as I imagined. For one I rarely seen the chef. He would make a appearance during service for example only if Paul Newman or Tim and Nina Zagat were on the books and a kitchen tour was expected.

In all it was not uncommon to only see him a few times a month and not more then a hour or two during service. And in all honesty even to this day I chuckle when I hear diners express the importantance of the chef in the kitchen. In my experience in this one particular restaurant if anything his presence caused a disruption.

I think Robert's point argues for kitchens where one either sees or knows the chef is there (one actually sees Ledeuil at Ze and Dominique Bouchet at db) versus bigger or huge ones where the only time you're certain the chef is there is the end of the meal (excepting Passard), for example Les Ambassadeurs.

A question I'd have for Robert and other chefs is whether this translates into a difference in the eating experience; does it help to have the chef present or hinder as you point out

In my experience in this one particular restaurant if anything his presence caused a disruption.
in some cases, so long as the productions are consistent?

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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A question I'd have for Robert and other chefs is whether this translates into a difference in the eating experience; does it help to have the chef present or hinder as you point out

In this particular case I would say it was a exception other then the rule.

Robert R

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That's a tough question.... Thinking about it I probably wouldn't want to work in a top place anymore. I've already practically killed myself doing the fine diner thing in the past. Having said that...

(This is kind of like picking the players you would want in the football team you support!)

Michel Bras, Marc Veyrat & Olivier Roellinger. Also up there would be Passard & Pacaud.

The places I'd really love to work are the places that do simple peasant food & regional stuff really well...

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For me, it would be Pierre Gagnaire, Marc Veyrat, and Oliver Roellinger.

Then again, I've had enough of working in high end kitchens. When I'm 40 I'd rather be able to be at home with the family, have time for friends, etc... So nowadays I do mostly pastry. And, if I were to apprentice under a pastry chef in France, it would probably be Sadaharu Aoki...

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For me, it would be Pierre Gagnaire, Marc Veyrat, and Oliver Roellinger. 

Then again, I've had enough of working in high end kitchens.  When I'm 40 I'd rather be able to be at home with the family, have time for friends, etc...  So nowadays I do mostly pastry.  And, if I were to apprentice under a pastry chef in France, it would probably be Sadaharu Aoki...

The last time I saw Aoki was in Tokyo last March at his pastry shop. Is he headquartered in Paris?

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For me, it would be Pierre Gagnaire, Marc Veyrat, and Oliver Roellinger. 

Then again, I've had enough of working in high end kitchens.  When I'm 40 I'd rather be able to be at home with the family, have time for friends, etc...  So nowadays I do mostly pastry.  And, if I were to apprentice under a pastry chef in France, it would probably be Sadaharu Aoki...

The last time I saw Aoki was in Tokyo last March at his pastry shop. Is he headquartered in Paris?

Yes. He opened his first shop in Paris, is based out of Paris for the most part, but also has a shop in Tokyo and visits Japan regularly.

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  • 1 month later...

I dont have a accual answer to your question, but have been searching for posts like this one. I am a young cook with good skills who has been looking for internships or externships with some one who could be a mentor at a resturant i might normally not be able to get a job at. If you have scene any posts like that or have any advice for me that would be great.

thanks,

nate simmons

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