How I got here:
My parents wanted me to be a doctor but I refused and studied to be a chef. After three years studying in my hometown near Valence in France, I worked at a variety of restaurants, including the two-Michelin starred Les Cedres run by Jacques Bertrand, before I moved to the UK aged 22.
When I arrived I began work at Oliver Peyton’s Mash in Manchester under Bruno Loubet as a chef de partie. He eventually transferred me to London where I worked for a while before moving over to events catering company Admiral Crichton.
I was there for a year before I joined a group called Silver Fleet that operated luxury boats on the Thames. After that I joined Number 10 in Tower Hill as junior sous before they eventually made me head chef.
In 2004 I went back to Admiral Crichton and spent four more years with them before heading off to travel the world and find out about global cooking techniques. When I returned I started as head chef at Tom Aikens’ Tom’s Kitchen. I was there for three years when he transferred me to work at Restaurant Tom Aikens as head chef.
After some consultancy work I was then approached by Marriott to take over as executive chef of the St Pancras Renaissance.
On cooking in Britain:
In England employers give you an opportunity if you can show them you can do a job well, and if you don’t do it well you’re out. But in France if I don’t have experience of a position already they wouldn’t give me a chance. That’s why I love England - it’s a land of opportunity. I was a head chef before I was 30, but when I looked into going back to France to work an employer actually said that because I’m not 30 yet I cannot be a head chef there. I’ve been here 12 years now and I’m not regretting a part of it.
On my first role as executive chef:
Opening St Pancras is something new for me. I’ve done event catering so I’m used to big numbers and organisation, but entering a group like Marriott is something very different and they have a certain way of doing things.
It’s a learning curve for me, that’s why I’m taking this job. It’s a big operation - we’ve already tripled the budget we were planning on – and when I talk to people like Tom Aikens or Marcus Wareing they say “everybody’s watching you”. It’s a bit stressful in terms of our industry because I have to do the job well. I need to show the other chefs in the UK that the food I’m doing is still good but I still want to learn from this role. There’s a balance I need to be careful of.
Being an executive chef is more of a management position and less hands on than being a head chef. Now I’m trying to pay attention to my staff and get the most out of them, as without them you’re nothing.
My greatest influence:
Jacques Bertrand taught me everything I know. When I look back at what we used to do it’s not that amazing, but because he taught me all the basics and took the time to show me things he’s had a huge impact on my career.
Another big source of inspiration for me is Tom Aikens. I loved working with him. When I became disillusioned with the London restaurant scene he brought back a bit of fire. Working for him made a big difference to my cooking style. I was a bit lost in terms of what food I wanted to do, whether it was Michelin-starred or brasserie, but he put me back on track.
On my cooking style:
My style is like market food. I’m going back to French cooking roots where chefs go to market in the morning and buy vegetables, meat and fish that’s just arrived and take their menu from there. We need to help British farmers by buying local where possible. I also like to keep it simple. We don’t do foams or things, its very simple, real cooking. That’s my main focus. The love of produce.
My biggest achievement:
My biggest achievement is yet to come. I’m not done yet. I’ve done a brasserie with Bruno Loubet, Michelin with Tom Aikens, event catering with Admiral Crichton and now hotel experience with Marriott. It’s all part of the learning curve and yes they’re all different places to work but for me I want to learn and take the best of all of them. I may be a bit old to learn, but I learn still. My next position I hope will be where I practise everything I’ve learned. The biggest achievement I hope is yet to come.
The dream like every chef is to have a nice restaurant. I do not want a lot of customers, just about 30 covers where you can really take care of the guest and make it personal. I’d like a bit of a Raymond Blanc, Le Manoir aux Qua’Saisons-style restaurant with rooms that’s relaxing and enjoyable. That’s my ultimate goal. I just need someone who wants to invest.