Gastronomy  An interview with Nicolas Isnard, a Michelin Starred French Chef (Part 1)
13/06/201900:00 TV5MONDE


It has been already six months that we met Nicolas Isnard, a Michelin-star chef, at “Le Méridien” hotel, Cyberport, Hong Kong when he was about to end his Asia tour. He talked to us about his career start from a family kitchen to the opening of his restaurant in Thailand for which he has obtained his first Michelin star.

 


 

Bonjour Nicolas ! When did you discover that you had this passion for cooking?
Very young! I have a “problem” with food. I am a gourmand, not a gourmet. Generally, I am passionate about cooking and “food”. It came to me when I was 12 years old.
 
 

Did you start working for a chef after graduation?
I went to work at Matignon right after graduation from a hospitality school. Then, I worked with the Plaza Athénée with Alain Ducasse (3 Michelin stars). I worked for Philippe Gauvreau (2 Michelin stars) in La Rotonde. Then, I worked for Gilles Goujon (3 Michelin stars), a restaurant near Narbonne and had a visit to the restaurant of Serge Chenet (1 Michelin star) in Avignon.  Nothing else than the very traditional way!

 


 

Did each region where you have worked inspire your dishes?
I have got my inspiration from each small moment I have. My region of adoption is Burgundy, my native region, Provence, is a little "melting pot" of all these. Those inspire me more than my experiences.
 
A chef needs to have his own experience. At the beginning, we are all inspired by what we have learnt; then we go away little by little to tell our own story.
 

 


 

If I ask you about the French region you prefer; did you have a “crush” on a particular region?
It is tricky because I love the Basque Country as much as Provence! I grew up in Provence, but I lived in the South West and I loved it. I lived in Lyon, and I found that this is a great city. I lived in Paris, and yes, it is the most beautiful city in the world! In Burgundy, there is an excellent terroir for the wine. I have lived there for ten years, and I am very happy. I really love Brittany too! I think France is a lovely country which is diverse, and I do not want to promote only one region. I love my country!
 
In France, we have many beautiful regions that offer a wide variety of specialities, climates, seasons, products. Some even have their own traditional language.
 
I would say my native region always got a special place in my heart. I love Provence for its climate and its products.


 


 

And did travel change the way you cook?
The culinary history also goes through the experiences that one can have. I travel a lot in Asia. So, I gain lots of inspiration from the products that I can find in this part of the world. Last year, we opened a restaurant in Thailand, it gave me access to products that are different from those I work with in France. I bring some back in my luggage, and I eat Asian cuisine regularly. I do not claim to be an Asian-influenced chef. But I repeat, your region of birth, your region of adoption and your travels make you who you really are.
 
Today, I am not an old man, but I am not a young man anymore. I become mature enough to tell my own story, based on what I live.
 
Today, I am home in France as much as in Asia. A few years ago, I would not have said the same, I was travelling less. I used to say: "I do not see the interest to go to Vietnam to eat a Pho and to remake it in the kitchen. It does not make sense! ". At that time, "the customer comes to your hometown in Burgundy to taste your French cuisine". Then you go and return. I still do not make Pho, but I use ginger, galangal, tamarind, citronella and mint more than before. Finally, the products are in profusion, and I incorporate them a little bit in our cuisine.

 

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