Chef de Cuisine at Château Magnol
Have you always dreamt of becoming a Chef?
No not really, it was in 1975 that I obtained entries for the International Hotel School at Touquet Paris Plage, and also for the "Ecole Boulle" (famous French fine arts and crafts school) in Paris, because at that time I was a rather good designer. I finally choose the Hotel School because there were more job possibilities and until today I have never regretted that choice.
Who or what decided you to become a Chef?
When we were young, my brothers and I were often alone at house as my father was in politics and my mother followed him, so the question always was: who is cooking today? In the beginning it was my older brother, but very quickly I took over.
You traveled a lot on cruise ships before starting at B&G. Was that important for you?
Yes I traveled a lot when I was young. It started when I went in the Navy and sailed the Indian ocean for 8 months. That was where I caught the travel-virus. When I started my career I switched regularly from land to sea and when it was "land" it was in Switzerland and UK most of the time. I loved to discover new horizons, new cultures and new food. The experience on the cruise ships and of course "eating local" when I was off duty, is unforgettable.
Where do yo find your inspiration today?
Most of the time I find my inspiration when I go out to restaurants or while watching culinary shows on TV. Generally speaking my (many!) cooking books are also a great source. I do not like today's molecular cuisine, I prefer traditional cuisine.
Do you have a favorite ingredient, herb or spice?
I really like to cook fish and the sauces to accompany fish. My favorite herb is basil, and among all spices I prefer curcuma, cumin and "piment d'Espelette" (pepper coming from the Pyrénées village of Espelette), but of course I have to be very reasonable in terms of quantity.
One thing you always have in your fridge?
Cheese! I just love cheese, but only quality cheese.
Do you often go out to restaurants?
In the past I went out to very few, but only to 1 or 2-star restaurants where I got my inspiration. Nowadays, I go out more regularly and I chose less expensive, but still very nice restaurants.
And cooking at home? A favorite recipe?
For the every day cooking it is my girl-friend, but when we invite friends, it's me in the kitchen.
I do not have any real favorite recipe, but I must admit I do like my own Crême Brulée.
When you prepare a recipe, do you immediately associate a wine?
I always think about the wine when starting the recipe and while handling the ingredients. I always imagine the best possible association, but it is not always easy.
A favorite (B&G) wine?
I love Sauvignon blanc and B&G Sancerre is one of my favorites and if I had to chose a red wine, it would be Château Magnol.
What are the most remarkable changes since you have been at the Château?
Over the years the Château has become a real communication and promotion tool for Barton & Guestier wines, and I really like that. Moreover, the building itself -thanks to the various works that have been realized- looks more and more beautiful, which adds to the prestige of Barton & Guestier in general.
What has been your greatest success in terms of dinner?
The first great compliment I remember came from Mr. Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Canadian Prime Minister) : "un diner exquis". Another one from Mr. Bronfman (owner of Seagram) during a meal with his friends, he wrote me a thank you letter and signed on the menu. And after that, I received great compliments on my gastronomic cooking tours, especially in Singapore and Bangkok.
Has there been a great miss?
It is always difficult to impose a menu on our invites, and I am sure that sometimes people do not like the dish I serve. I also remember dropping plates in the kitchen, which makes a lot of noise, when we had an event with the Duke of Kent and Mr. Alain Juppé. They had a good laugh, but I felt very bad all day.
Can you name some Chefs that came to the Château?
In 1992, I had the honour to meet Mr. Alain Pic. At that time all the journalists were commenting the event, because Alain was supposed to follow up on his father, but in the end, it was his sister Anne-Sophie who took over the restaurants. She is very successful today. In 1994, I prepared a special dinner with Toum, a famous Chef from Thailand. And in 1999, during Vinexpo, it was Paul Bocuse who came here. He is my reference, my "benchmark". On this occasion, he also signed my very first cookbook (received years earlier), which was written by him!
How did you become passionate about old menus?
It was a coincidence. I liked to go to second hand open markets and my collection started with a menu from 1910, and then another one from 1890. In the beginning it was the year and the look of the menu itself, that attracted me, but later it was rather the content of the menu itself, always very inspiring!
Frédéric joined Barton & Guestier in 1987. He graduated from the Culinary School of Le Touquet in 1978 and worked his way through prestigious restaurants such as the Volkshaus Hotel I Bern, Switzerland, l'Oustau de Beaumanière (5 Forks and 2 Stars Michelin) with reknowned Chef Raymond Thuillier on the French Rivièra, and the Restaurant Le Gamin in London. For a few years, Frederic also travelled his talent around the world and cruised with the Paquet Company on the "Massalia" and the "Mermoz".