Why did you decide to open in London?
Two years ago, The Four Seasons asked me to do this project and, of course, I said yes. It’s very exciting to be on the London scene and The Four Seasons has the same values that I aspire to – high quality in everything it does.
Describe the food at Le Dame de Pic
The spirit of my cuisine is inspired by the history of my family’s restaurant business but it’s not traditional. I’ve found my own way of cooking and I think it’s quite modern. I try to move French cuisine forward to be a bit lighter and more up to date. I first learnt to cook with heavy sauces and very creamy dishes with butter that are very traditional in France. But now I try to reduce my use of butter and oil to make dishes that are very light and flavourful, so I use a lot of infusions. I have my own style.
What’s on the menu?
On the launch menu are dishes including Hereford beef poached with Monts Amaro and cinnamon leaves with celeriac in brown butter, gin and sobacha; Brittany pigeon that’s smoked with liquorice, turnip and crispy salsify served with a kaffir lime consommé; and teppanyaki flamed line-caught mackerel with matcha dashi, Xeres vinegar and baby leeks. For dessert, there’s a white millefeuille on the menu made with Tahitian vanilla cream, jasmine jelly and Voatsiperifery pepper foam.
How does opening in London compare to Paris?
It’s different but Paris is my home so it was even quite a challenge when we opened the restaurant there a few years ago (Le Dame de Pic opened in Paris in 2012). But the culture there is familiar and I know it. It’s more challenging to open in London because it has so many restaurants. There is much more competition than in Paris, so that makes a real difference. I’m very eager to discover the British culture so it gives me a challenge, but I hope I can discover some new ingredients and styles of cooking. Seven years ago I opened a restaurant in Switzerland, and when I was there I discovered a beautiful country with new ingredients, so it gave me inspiration.
What do you think of London’s dining scene?
There is a lot of variety in London, and it’s quite similar to Paris with the many different cuisines and cultures that are available to people. There are perhaps more different cultures in London than Paris. You’re very lucky; British people have so many food choices. There are, of course, some differences and I am trying to analyse these to understand what British people want from a restaurant. Fine cuisine is very important, but so is the ambience of a restaurant. Little by little, I have worked to try to capture the spirit of London and what people want when they eat out. But I don’t want to adapt my dishes [at the London restaurant] because I want British people to discover my style of cooking.
What are the challenges with opening in a hotel compared with a stand-alone restaurant?
This is not my first hotel restaurant. I’ve opened one in Lausanne in Switzerland. It’s a big difference because I’m coming from a family restaurant with a huge history. My grandmother was a chef, my grandfather was a chef, each generation has gained a third (Michelin) star. We have to adapt to the values of the hotel. But I think it’s more comfortable to open a restaurant in a hotel because you have the organised structure that gives you more support. I’m relieved to be opening in a hotel rather than to be opening a restaurant in London without the hotel’s support.
Will you serve breakfast?
The restaurant space will be used to serve breakfast to hotel guests, but I won’t be responsible for that side of things.
There’s historically been a gender imbalance in kitchens. What advice would you give aspiring young female chefs?
It’s still quite difficult for women because this industry is male dominated. For women, it is difficult to convince others that we are capable of using good technique and can be creative. The industry has been owned by male chefs for a long time. I have a lot of young female chefs in my kitchens, but as soon as they get married or have a family to take care of, they are obliged to quit because they have to make a choice between their family and their job. But things have changed. Male chefs are now happy to open the kitchen to women and know they can provide some very good work.
This will be your fourth restaurant in Europe, what’s next?
It’s quite a challenge to open a restaurant. I don’t want to open 20 of them. I’ve got two in France, one in Switzerland and now one in London. It gives me a lot of work but also inspiration. I don’t just open a restaurant for the business side of things, it won’t be enough for me because I give a lot of energy to it. Restaurants give me a lot of inspiration and open my mind.