La sélection du moment

    The end of year festivities are coming up, Christmas is almost here! I offer you a selection of festive recipes to delight your taste buds and your guests. Tarama, foie gras, logs, I give you all my secrets. There are in this selection, recent recipes and others that I have published for nearly 12 years, so the photos are not all equal! Just click on the recipes to access them!

Home Interview My Culinary Interviews: Guy Martin !

My Culinary Interviews: Guy Martin !

Catégorie : InterviewReport
So here is my first interview. And to start with, I wanted to aim very high! I went to meet Mr. Guy Martin. Holder of numerous awards, he has been voted best chef in France and Europe several times. Head for the Grand Véfour, where he has been the chef since 1991, in the gardens of the Palais Royal in Paris, a stone’s throw from the Louvre. Mr. Guy Martin very kindly received me in a private room on the floor of the Grand Véfour, for an exclusive interview for “La Cuisine de Bernard”! By improvising as a journalist, I was of course very stressed, but I came out delighted to have spent this privileged moment with this unavoidable chef.
This section is new and will be enriched with one interview per month or every two months. But I invite you to leave your comments to see what you think!

Bernard: You are a recognized chef in France and abroad. In your opinion, what are the qualities that qualify a great chef ?

Guy Martin: It’s complicated to say. I don’t know, by his work, the way he apprehends dishes, life, probably also by his search for excellence, the way he tries to go to the bottom of things. It means looking for the best products at the best time and having a whole chain of growers, farmers, breeders and so on who will give you the best products. Then it is to interpret these products according to its sensitivity.


Are there any

s there any other side to these qualities ?

There are bound to be setbacks. If perfection exists, there is only God. Does God exist, that’s something else! But it is this quest for perfection, or trying to always be the best you can be, that can bring frustration or permanent dissatisfaction. But it also allows for progress. 

Do you have to innovate to be a great chef or can you stay in the tradition ?

That’s up to each individual. You have to know what you are looking for, what you like in life. I think that cooking is part of a social and cultural movement that is underway. We don’t dress like we did twenty years ago. Let’s take the case of cars, they don’t have the same look. This means that we are in a perpetual motion. For example, from Botticelli to Rotko, what the artists do is still extraordinary. This painting, which is frozen, can also be frozen like some dishes in the kitchen, and it is still of very high quality. Now, we live in the 21st century and we want to cook in the 21st century, and I want to cook in the 21st century. 

You are self-taught and I understand that you have no family background in gastronomy. But I have a doubt when I see the book written with your father (placed in a corner of the living room). So where does this passion for cooking come from ?

It is not a doubt, it is a reality. These are recipes that he made at home, but he was not a cook at all. This book is a tribute to my father, to my parents. My passion for cooking comes from the passion to eat properly at home, to differentiate the good from the fine, because my mother cooked very well. My parents entertained and went out a lot. When I came of age, I knew how to eat. I couldn’t cook, but I could appreciate things. After that, it’s a series of events, including reading cookbooks. I thought, “well, why shouldn’t I be a cook?” That’s it, it came about a little bit by chance. But from my earliest childhood, I was immersed in an environment of epicureans, cigars and wines.

You bring cooking and painting together. For what reasons ? What are the artistic periods or painters that touch you the most in this area ? How has painting changed your conception of gastronomy ?

Painting helps me to live everyday, and I would say that there are painters that I appreciate more. It will depend on the time of year. After, concretely, on a dish, it can be the dynamic   of a movement,  the matter. The painters at the moment that I love can be painter-photographers. There is for example, Martine Martine, Dominique Issermann, there is of course Monet, Rotko, Magritte, Ellen Von Unwerth. These are people whose work I like. 


Nowadays, there is a kind of apology for the gastronomy of the country, a praise of the soil, of the cuisine with regional touches, in short of a cuisine that has an identity that characterizes it and distinguishes it from others. Do you share this opinion ? If yes, what singularity gave you your Savoyard origin ?

It is on several levels, for me who is from the mountain. First of all, it’s respect, because I have a sporting background. The respect of the mountain, the respect of the other, is the education we received. I would say that these are things that can help in life, but at the same time, it is to know how the seasons work, how the world of agriculture works, since I lived in a village of farmers. It is to understand the cycle of time and at the same time, it is to recognize the beautiful products, to have an eye. 

You have traveled a lot and I imagine that, in these trips, you are always attentive to everything related to gastronomy. What countries, cities or markets, traditions do you find interesting from a culinary point of view? Have you incorporated elements of this into your own kitchen ?

Of course, everything is interesting. Whatever the country, village or market, everything is a source of inspiration, a source of future recipes. The discovery of products, the discovery, for example, recently of honeys, with people who make the transhumance of the bees, who leave from the seaside and who go back to the hinterland, it is something that is stacked on traditions, on ways of  do. Of course you have to be open to everything that is going on, because cooking has no boundaries. It is like music, it travels. But the country that inspires me the most, or that has inspired me the most, is Japan with its zen side, the zen gardens and the paradox between a country that is very traditional, with temples, cities, that have not really moved in time. Traditions, such as Kabuki, the theater Noh. Eand at the same time a city with very modern people. It is this complexity that interests me too. On the culinary level, it is Japan that has influenced me the most. 

Your work is also your passion. And I imagine you put a lot of energy into your restaurant. Do you have any left to cook for your family or friends?  And if so, do you put as much rigor into it or do you cook more by instinct?


Well, at home, it’s always an instinctive cooking, except when I have friends over and I have to shop. But what can pass for rigor or for a certain choice of ingredients, is my daily life. Of course I’m cooler at home, but it’s a natural thing. And at the same time at home, I can do things that I don’t do at the restaurant. There can be food products, industrial products, that doesn’t bother me at all, if I don’t have time to make. However, I will try to give a touch on each dish, to bring some love in the recipe. You have to deviate from the basic ingredient, whether it’s frozen peas, for example, if I didn’t have time to go to the market, well in that case, I’m going to try for example, in the cooking waters, on every single thing that I’m going to do, to bring in something personal and try to make the recipe really good.  But at the same time, when I cook for someone, I cook for their tastes, I know what they like, so I go in the direction of the people I am cooking for.

Do your friends still dare to invite you to dinner ?

Yes, they still have a problem with it, but I explain it to them! Those who love me, know me well and know that it is not a problem, because if you make me a pasta dish, everything is fine, even if the cooking is messed up, I do not care! Because it’s my job. What interests me is the moment of conviviality, the moment of sharing that we will spend together. It’s not going to say “is the tablecloth well ironed? are the beans well cooked? is it a good quality?”, honestly I don’t care. 

The great Kitchen consists of meticulous, planned, thoughtful work. Is there room for improvisation in this ?

There are two different things. There is the dish on the menu, which may evolve over time, or a dish that will remain on a menu for three months. Here at Le Grand Véfour, the name may be the same, but it can evolve depending on how you feel. But we will say that in the globality, the dish will not move, because it has this name. For example, at the moment, there are morels arriving. There, it’s complicated to move a dish. On the other hand there is the product of the moment that we will We have to create a recipe for each ingredient that we receive, for example from our fishmonger, or for vegetables that arrive like that and that are not necessarily on the menu, so yes, it will be a recipe that we will create specifically for this ingredient that arrives. If the fishmonger has very nice red mullets, he will put them on our menu, if he has scallops from the bay of Saint Brieux, we will have them, so that means that we will cook these products which are not necessarily on the menu. We’ll get them in late morning and then we’ll cook them. It’s not something that is marked, that is written in stone, it’s something that we’re going to do just like that. 

Do you have a pet peeve that has nothing to do with haute cuisine ? And what are your small pleasures in the kitchen daily or in the popular kitchen? And in the industrial kitchen ?

So, in industrial products, I love candy. Sweets from around the world! I eat a lot of candy, a lot of industrial cakes. That’s about as far as it goes. Now, again, I don’t mind if you have to use industrial products and I don’t mind giving recipes with them. Also, because not everyone has the time, the budget, to go to the markets, to have the time to spend cooking. We must stop making people feel guilty about food, everyone does what they can with what they have and where they are.

Some people, including myself, associate great gastronomy with the most expensive dishes, the most exclusive restaurants. They may be unaware of the pleasure that the simplest ingredients offer. Do you think there is room for simplicity and ” cheap ” ingredients in the high gastronomy ?

Well, all the products have their place, but why does it cost relatively more in a gourmet restaurant than elsewhere? First, the starting ingredient is not the same. Because when you take, for example, scallops, pork or foie gras, there are ten different prices, and we will take the top of the top, the nec plus ultra, we will take the best quality. This means that, already at the beginning, we have products that are expensive and that even some of these products, you can not find them on the markets, because they are parallel circuits. Secondly, because there are teams that are expensive, the staff are relatively well paid, there is a decor, small fours. All the ingredients, the staff, the place, the service, the sommellerie and so on, add up to a cost and you can’t go below it. Nevertheless, we can work with pork, we can work on menus with hake, but big hake. But you can also be spontaneous. You know, a customer who comes to taste a dish and comes back regularly taste this dish, he memorizes it. And if the next time he comes back, and under the same title it’s not the same recipe at all, somewhere he’s lost. So you really have to listen to your customers. 

Professional chefs deliver their recipes in their cookbooks, but when faced with their successes, amateurs sometimes feel inhibited. ” I can’t do what’s in the picture “, ” I’m going to mess up “. And even those who do venture out, may not persevere when faced with the first failure. Behind the success that appears on the photos, behind the scenes, do the great chefs also experience failures? Do you  ever miss or drop a dish ? 


That is to say that I draw the recipes. I draw them and eat them in my head. I imagine the textures, the seasonings. Afterwards, when it is put in the kitchen, the recipe is finished, it has already been thought out. Then it’s just a little adjustment, but sometimes it doesn’t work. And when it doesn’t work, I try once or twice, but then I stop. I don’t persevere. When the recipe is finished, when you feel that it is ok, you feel that it is ok. For example, right now, I have a recipe, but I’m not too convinced. It is a recipe based on monkfish and several works on tomato. But since I don’t have the right tomatoes yet, I have to anticipate the map that will arrive. It has to be printed, it takes fifteen days, three weeks, to print it, and only then will I have the right tomatoes, it will be too late. In this recipe, I worked on different colors and textures of tomatoes, but the tomatoes I have here do not have the quality I am looking for. My dish is a little off from what I imagine it should taste like. Yet I know what it should taste like. Now I’m thinking “what do I do?”, do I stop or do I move on to the next topic? Yet the dish is well finished in my head. So that’s it. But in general we put down the recipe and we think that the one we made in the given moment is the best, otherwise we would not make it. 

And on the other hand there is a dish that went beyond your expectations?

Well, this is the one that’s not done yet! It’s always the next dish. 

It’s a year-round job, you need to anticipate the next season’s products to anticipate the menu a bit?

Yes, because at the end of the day, the card has to be printed. As I said, it takes a fortnight, three weeks, to write it, print it and so on. You always have to anticipate, but then, when it arrives, well, you’re in it. But I am always amazed by the quality of our products, by the work of these growers, farmers, what they manage to give us. I find that of more in addition there is a research. I am very optimistic about the future. Even on the industrial side, they are doing better and better, they are doing things really well. 


Do you ever get inspiration from other chefs, from books, from the internet?

No, I never use the net. All my books are handwritten. I have an assistant who does the mail, but I never go on the net. I’m not interested, I don’t have time. I like the contact with the paper. A few years ago, I had put together a collection of cookbooks, a bit old, because I like the origin, I like to understand where we come from, and to understand where we are going, we have to understand where we come from. That’s what I was interested in, and I was always looking for the book I couldn’t find. But from a passion, it was only a story of money. You put in the money, the book is there. So I stopped because it was really a passion, finding old manuscripts. I had people all over France who helped me, but then it was going into something that was not what I expected. So there you go, I stopped, but I still have those collections. And I think I stopped buying books from my colleagues twenty years ago. But for me, I don’t keep any notes. Now I write books, but for people who cook at home, not for professionals, so that means I don’t keep any recipes. If you ask me about a recipe from two years ago, I don’t have it anymore, it doesn’t exist anymore,  it is not kept. I don’t want to say, “well, I lack inspiration, what if I did something that worked well”. I don’t want that. The day there is no more magic, I will stop. 


Finally, is there an approach, a fashion of cooking that you don’t like? 


No, everyone does what they want. And then, at the end of the day, it’s the customer who decides. If I don’t like it, I don’t go, and for the customer it’s the same. But cooking is a real freedom. There are some who make media hits on things, that can last two, three years, but it is a profession in which you have to last. It’s every day, twice a day for years, so I think if you’re not in some truth, it’s complicated to get through those years. 

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La sélection du moment

    The end of year festivities are coming up, Christmas is almost here! I offer you a selection of festive recipes to delight your taste buds and your guests. Tarama, foie gras, logs, I give you all my secrets. There are in this selection, recent recipes and others that I have published for nearly 12 years, so the photos are not all equal! Just click on the recipes to access them!

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